CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Syracuse came within one point of No. 8 North Carolina heading into the final two minutes of the game, but ultimately fell short 75-70 on Monday night at the Dean E. Smith Center. The Tar Heels used a deep bench to its advantage, as the home bench outscored the Orange's 53-16.
A big 3-pointer from grad student Michael Gbinije made it a one-point game with 2:23 left in the game, 69-68, but the back-and-forth battle didn't stop, as UNC racked up a quick four points sustain a five-point lead heading into the final minute of play, 73-68.
Freshman Malachi Richardson slammed one down with 44 seconds left, 73-70, but a missed opportunity for a layup put it back in the hands of the Tar Heels with eight seconds left. A pair of free throws sealed a 75-70 UNC victory.
Gbinije finished the evening with 17 points and seven assists, while grad student Trevor Cooney added 14 points, including a perfect 6-6 from the charity stripe, helping to lead the Orange to a 19-23 effort from the free throw line on the night.
Junior Tyler Roberson totaled a team-high 11 rebounds and finished with nine points. Freshmen Tyler Lydon and Richardson racked up 12 and 10 points, respectively. The duo combined for an 8-10 performance from the free throw line.
The Tar Heels jumped out to a 12-6 lead in the first five minutes of the contest, but the Orange came bouncing back, evening the score at 14 thanks to a free throw by Lydon at the 12-minute mark. Syracuse snatched its first lead of the game forty seconds later off of a Richardson 3-pointer and a 9-0 run, 17-14.
UNC stole the lead back with just over 10 minutes left and proceeded to create a 24-18 advantage, but 'Cuse continued to come from behind, knotting it up once again at 26 from a jumper by DaJuan Coleman at the 5:04 mark. The Tar Heels didn't let up, going on a 7-0 run to create a 33-26 lead, but back-to-back threes by Cooney brought the Orange within one with 2:37 left to play, 33-32. UNC held a four-point lead as the first-half clock expired, 38-34.
After an initial slow start in the first few minutes of the second half, the Tar Heels found their way on a 9-0 run to make it a 13-point game just under the 15-minute mark, 50-37. The Orange fought back with six unanswered points, including four points from the charity stripe by Lydon, to make it a seven-point game at the 12:56 mark, 50-43.
A tip-in by Coleman made it a six-point game with 8:41 left in the contest, and a pair of free throws from Cooney cut the margin down to three at the seven-minute mark, 62-59. UNC stacked the lead up to nine once again with five and a half minutes left to play, but a layup by Roberson brought Syracuse within one possession of the Tar Heels, 68-65, at the 3:16 mark.
Syracuse closes out the regular season at Florida State on Saturday, March 5 at 2 p.m.