Boeheim was back with the Orange after serving a nine-game suspension for NCAA violations. The team went 4-5 in his absence, dropping the last three.
The crowd of 26,811 at the Carrier Dome greeted Boeheim with a standing ovation and then roared throughout the game that was close for 37 minutes before the Tar Heels pulled away to their eighth straight win.
Brice Johnson and Justin Jackson both had 16 points for the Tar Heels (15-2, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), while Joel Berry II added 14.
Johnson was coming off a 39-point, 20-rebound performance against Florida State. He only had four rebounds against Syracuse, but he had eight assists, most of the them when he set up in the middle of the Orange's 2/3 zone and found Jackson and Hicks for dunks and layups.
Trevor Cooney had 27 points for Syracuse (10-7, 0-4) while Malachi Richardson added 16 and Tyler Roberson had 13.
Syracuse was able to stay close for so long by having one of its best rebounding games of the season. The Orange came into the night averaging two rebounds less than their opponents while North Carolina came in at plus-11. Syracuse finished with a 35-33 advantage, including 14-10 on the offensive glass.
North Carolina struggled from the outside all game, going 3 of 16 from 3-point range while the Orange went 9 of 31, with Cooney going 5 of 12 and Richardson 4 of 10.
Boeheim's entrance before the game drew a huge ovation, and the man who has been the face of the program for four decades waved several times. Once the game started he was his usual self, complaining to refs, urging his players and often just watching with his arms folded.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels will have only one more road game in January -- Jan. 24 at Virginia Tech. ... The last time North Carolina had a better start in the ACC was 2000-01 when it started 11-0. ... The Tar Heels came into the game having scored at least 80 in 12 straight games and 14 of 16. ... The Tar Heels have scored at least 90 points in seven games this season. They broke that mark only five times all last season. ... Kennedy Meeks missed seven games with bruised bone in his left knee. He returned to practice on a limited basis on Wednesday and played against Syracuse, finishing with eight points and two rebounds in 14 minutes. ... North Carolina came in with an 8-2 record in the Carrier Dome -- 1-1 vs. Syracuse and 7-1 in NCAA Tournament games.
Syracuse: Michael Gbinije came into the game third in Division I in minutes played, averaging 37.52 per game. Cooney is ninth in minutes at 37.22. ... Coming into the game Gbinije led the team in scoring, 3-pointers, steals and minutes played. He had 10 points on 3-of-13 shooting against North Carolina. ... The Orange had their lowest attendance in 14 years when 16,305 attended the Clemson game last Wednesday. It was the lowest since 14,322 attended the game against Rutgers on Jan. 2, 2002. The crowd Saturday night was announced as 26,811, the largest on-campus crowd in the country this season.
North Carolina hosts North Carolina State on Saturday.