SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- In a highly anticipated Saturday evening matchup with the 6th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels, the Orange made it a game for the first 35 minutes. But, the Tar Heels prevailed with a late run, ultimately defeating Syracuse, 84-73.
Here are my four takeaways from the game:
1. Trevor Cooney was terrific: Syracuse fans saw the Trevor Cooney they've expected all year. On Saturday night, Cooney was the best offensive player on the floor, scoring 27 points in 39 minutes. He took a game-high 21 shots, making ten of them, while going 5-for-12 from deep. The fifth-year senior kept the Orange in the game all night, consistently hitting big shots in Jim Boeheim's return to the sideline.
2. Michael Gbinije's ACC struggles continue: Michael Gbinije won't come off the floor under any circumstances, even if he had a heart attack, according to coach Boeheim. But last night, Gbinije was a non-factor, and ultimately hurt the Orange. The only problem is, SU doesn't have enough depth behind Gbinije to have any contributions. He went 3-for-13 from the floor, 0-for-6 from 3-point range, and tied his season-low with ten points. Despite his struggles, Gbinije remains a threat on both ends of the floor -- but last night he was off his game, which has been a reoccurring theme in ACC play thus far.
3. 46 points in the paint: SU's interior defense was awful again on Saturday. The Orange gave up 46 points in the paint, which comes only four days after giving up forty points in the paint to Clemson in a 74-73 overtime loss. When Syracuse sits back in their 2-3 zone, this is bound to happen. The Orange don't have a true rim protector, which exposes the middle of the zone. Unfortunately, this will be a reoccurring theme for the rest of the season. Fortunately, Syracuse will have 7-foot-2 transfer center Paschal Chukwu available next season.
4. Despite all of SU's problems, they can still compete with the best: North Carolina (15-2 overall, 4-0 ACC) is a top team in the country, and the Orange hung with them for 35 minutes. We saw the good, the bad and the ugly with Syracuse last night. Trevor Cooney played the best he will all season, Michael Gbinije continued to struggle and they failed to close out another ACC game. All four conference losses were winnable games, which should give SU fans hope. Syracuse out-rebounded one of the best rebounding teams in the country, 35-33, and almost pulled off the upset. But, almost isn't good enough.