Syracuse offense cannot execute late in loss to No. 10 North Carolina

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Paschal Chukwu leaned up against the locker room wall, burrowed his hands deep into the pockets of his puffy, gray winter coat and stared over everyone and across the room. He spoke haltingly, trying to keep his voice steady and sometimes paused to dab at his eyes. He relived the key moment in Syracuse’s (18-10, 7-8 Atlantic Coast) 78-74 loss to No. 10 North Carolina (22-7, 11-5) in the Carrier Dome on Wednesday night and leaned his head back against the wall. It was the moment his head coach, Jim Boeheim, summed up like this: “Bad mistake. Bad mistake.” With 32.6 seconds left, Syracuse came out of its timeout down two points with a chance to tie or take the lead in a game that Syracuse clawed back into after a barrage of North Carolina 3s seemed to put it out of reach. The Orange in-bounded to point guard Frank Howard and Chukwu set a high ball-screen instead of the down-screen that Boeheim called to free up star guard Tyus Battle. “Coach drew up a play,” Chukwu said, “and I thought it was a different play.”Howard saw the miscommunication and adjusted. He didn’t want to lose the ball driving, so he figured he’d pull-up for 3 from the left wing, a shot he’d hit before. But this time, it bounced off the far side of the rim.  AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“We messed up,” Howard said. The offense, overall, stayed in the groove it’s found in the last five games but late failures to execute doomed the Orange. After Howard’s miss, North Carolina’s Joel Berry hit a pair at the free-throw line to ice the game. It was a marquee win that never was for Syracuse, because the team failed to ever regain its first lead since 3-2. It only ever managed to tie. Syracuse knotted things back up at 3:07, when Battle hit a pull-up jumper after a tough layup and the season-high Carrier Dome crowd of 27,165 reached a roar that became a singularity of deafening sound. On the next possession, Chukwu stole the ball from UNC’s Theo Pinson, who had a team-high 23 points, but Syracuse forward Oshae Brissett missed a 3 and North Carolina once again had the ball. The two teams circled one another trying to land the knockout blow. When, seconds later, UNC grabbed an offensive rebound and Berry missed a 3 — a rarity for him Wednesday night — the Dome seemed ready for the roof to open. Syracuse’s best shot at its second attempt to finally regain a lead came from a Battle 3-pointer that bounced out to near the free-throw line, where Chukwu snagged it. He held the ball above his head, arms almost fully extended above his 7-foot-2 frame. Then, he brought the ball down and Berry pounced. “We did everything we could offensively to win,” Boeheim said. “When you get tied, you can’t make a turnover in that situation.”Boeheim compared Chukwu’s turnover to Brissett’s decision to shoot a 3-pointer late against Florida State in SU’s loss five weeks ago. “We talked about (Brissett’s shot after the FSU game),” Boeheim continued. “It was a terrible time to take that shot. We’re driving, we’re scoring. It’s just a really bad play. Paschal gets the rebound and then gives it to Joel Berry. You can’t do that.”With 1:39 to go, Berry converted the steal with a crafty layup from the left side and Syracuse couldn’t respond. But with a chance to close out the game, Berry missed a dagger 3. That’s when the Orange called a timeout. Chukwu walked slowly to the huddle, head down. When he arrived, assistant coach Allen Griffin, fellow center Bourama Sidibe, walk-ons and others slapped him on the chest and the back to tell him hey, everything’s good.Then, Boeheim gathered everyone around and said one thing while Chukwu heard another. Seconds later, Berry walked down the floor to the free-throw line with a chance to squash the Orange’s last efforts to wedge themselves back into a game UNC had tried to stiff-arm them from all night.  “I called a play thinking that Joel would end up making an open 3 at the top of the key, and I just thought he’d make the sucker,” said UNC head coach Roy Williams. “Then he didn’t make it. So, when he got the free throws, I said, ‘You missed the 3, how about making the free throws and let’s get out of town.’” Comments Published on February 21, 2018 at 11:10 pm Contact Sam: sjfortie@syr.edu | @Sam4TRlast_img