The magic had to end sometime, and it did in the Final Four in Houston. With a 83-66 loss to North Carolina, Syracuse's improbable postseason run concluded Saturday night. The Orange were simply not good enough offensively and could not stop the dynamic Tar Heels' front court defensively.
Oh, there were moments when Syracuse looked like it was going to do it once again. Come back from a seemingly impossible deficit to pull a win out of their you know whats. A 10-0 run cut the Tar Heel advantage to just seven in the second half. But after starting 0-12 from beyond the three-point arc, Marcus Paige and Theo Pinson his back to back trifectas to push the lead back to double figures.
Syracuse would not get close again.
It ended what will be remembered as one of the more magical, unexpected and exciting postseason runs in Syracuse basketball history.
The game started out tightly contested and was tied at 18 before North Carolina ended the half on a 21-10 run. That pushed the game out of reach for the Orange, who struggled to shoot the ball from everywhere, including the charity stripe where they were just 4-13.
The offensive glass and points in the paint doomed Syracuse as North Carolina took advantage of its size inside. Syracuse was outrebounded 43-31 and gave up 16 offensive rebounds. The Tar Heels outscored Syracuse 50-32 in the paint.
Michael Gbinije had an off game finishing 5-18 shooting with just 12 points. He fouled out late in the game to end his career with the Orange.
Trevor Cooney had a game-high 22 points on 9-18 shooting including 4-8 from beyond the arc. He added five rebounds and three steals. It was a fantastic effort from Cooney who was visibly exhausted over the final 10 minutes, but continued to fight as he tried to get the Orange back in it.
Cooney was simply marvelous in this tournament run. He became the first player in Syracuse history to play in two Final Fours with the game Saturday night.
Malachi Richardson, who was special against Virginia in the second half, had a nice game with 17 points and five rebounds.
UNC was led by the balanced scoring on their front line. Brice Johnson scored 16 points and added nine rebounds. Kennedy Meeks poured in 15 points with eight boards. Justin Jackson also contributed 16 points.
After the game, Richardson declined comment about returning next season while Tyler Lydon told News Channel 9's Sal Maneen that he will "definitely" be coming back to the Orange.
Syracuse finishes the season 23-14 and made the Final Four for the second time in the last four seasons.