CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Smith Center
Monday, 7:00 p.m.
ESPN (Sean McDonough, Shane Battier)
“This game we played more than well enough to win. You can’t miss those free throws. We’re not that good. If we miss 11 free throws in the next game, we’ll lose. That’s all this game is. You can ask a million questions about as many plays. They’re going to make some good plays, we’re going to make some good plays; that’s the way it is. We made a couple bad turnovers we haven’t made but overall this game was one thing. That’s all it was, nothing else. We make some free throws we win the game. Bottom line.” – Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim following his team’s 66-62 loss on Miami on Saturday
"I guess this loss will give us some extra motivation going into UNC.” – forward Michael Gbinije after the Miami loss
Season to Date: Syracuse enters Monday’s contest with a 14-6 (5-2 ACC) record. After dropping three of four games in December, head coach Jim Boeheim’s squad reeled off seven straight wins, including ACC victories over Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Florida State and Wake Forest. Syracuse has since lost two its last three games (Clemson, Miami). The Orange need to pile up conference wins while they can – their closing ACC stretch is quite possibly the toughest in the league.
Christmas Leading the Way: After playing a backup role in Syracuse’s recent teams, Rakeem Christmas’s time finally came this season and he’s lived up to the challenge. The 6-foot-9 senior forward is currently the ACC’s second-leading scorer with an average of 18.3 points per game. Christmas has been really effective around the basket. The Philadelphia native has converted 59.5 percent of his field goals from the floor. He also ranks second in the ACC in blocked shots (2.11), highlighting his effectiveness on the defensive end of the floor.
Minutes at a Premium: Depth has been an issue for Boeheim this season. The Orange have eight players averaging 12.9 minutes or more per game on the season, although that number has dropped dramatically in conference play due to Chris McCullough’s ACL tear. Only six players have played in all seven conference games, and three starters are averaging 37.0 minutes per game. Only six players played in Saturday’s loss to Miami. Guard Trevor Cooney leads the ACC with 40.1 minutes per game in conference play.
Success in Sharing the Ball: Like North Carolina, Syracuse is a team that has had success spreading the ball around the floor. The Orange are averaging 15.8 assists per game, which is the second-best in the ACC. From a national perspective, that number ranks 24th. Overall, this team has recorded a total 316 assists and ranks 18th in assists per made field goals, according to kenpom.com.
Zone Defense Still Thriving: Boeheim’s staple zone defense has delivered its standard measure of success this season. Syracuse has the third-best scoring defense in the ACC, surrendering just 59.5 points per game, and is holding opponents to 37.6 percent shooting (4th ACC). The Orange rank 18th nationally in opponents’ effective field goal percentage (43.5), according to kenpom.com. Part of that defensive success is due to an ability to block shots - Syracuse ranks third in the ACC with 5.2 blocks per game (3rd most in the ACC).
Last Meeting: The Orange defeated the Tar Heels, 57-45, at the Carrier Dome on Jan. 11, 2014. UNC shot just 39.2 percent from the floor and was led by Marcus Paige’s 17 points, 14 of which came after halftime. James Michael McAdoo added 15 points and nine rebounds.
Series History: The all-time series between UNC and Syracuse is tied at 4-4.
25 Rakeem Christmas (6-9, 250, Sr.) - 18.3 ppg, 8.9 rpg
10 Trevor Cooney (6-4, 195, Jr.) - 14.1 ppg, 2.4 apg
21 Tyler Robertson (6-8, 212, So.) - 7.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg
00 Michael Gbinije (6-7, 200, Jr.) - 10.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg
14 Kaleb Joseph (6-3, 165, Fr.) - 6.9 ppg, 4.8 apg
4 Ron Patterson (6-2, 200, So.) - 2.4 ppg, 1.8 apg
35 Chinonso Obokoh (6-9, 215, So.) - 1.3 ppg, 1.9 rpg
2 B.J. Johnson (6-7, 185, So.) - 4.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg
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(Photo by USA Today Sports)