The # 1 Seeded North Carolina Tar Heels will take on the # 10 seeded Syracuse Orangemen on Saturday night in the second game of the Final Four. Syracuse advanced after a come from behind victory of the top seeded Virginia Cavaliers. Syracuse was down 35-21 at halftime when they mounted a furious second half comeback outscoring Virginia by 20 points to secure the 6 point victory. North Carolina led the whole way in defeating Notre Dame 88-74 to move on. For UNC this is their first Final Four since 2009 but it is their 19th in the program’s history which is more than any other Division 1 school.
All 5 starters scored in double figures for North Carolina but again it was forward Brice Johnson who led the way with 25 points to go along with 12 rebounds. The double-double was Brice’s 23rd on the season which is the most ever in a season in school history. North Carolina absolutely dominated the rebounding battle 32 to 15. Joel Berry also had a nice game with 13 points and 8 rebounds. Overall North Carolina shot 61 percent making 32 of their 52 field goals while committing only 6 turnovers. Defensively, they allowed Notre Dame to shoot 55 percent from the field including 50 percent from behind the arc.
Syracuse’s Malachi Richardson led the second half comeback against Virginia. He scored 21 of his 23 points after halftime, which matched the team’s entire point total in the first half. They also decided to put on the full court press that helped turn defense into offense. They scored 15 points off turnovers, which included 11 steals including 4 by Trevor Cooney. They outrebounded Virginia 36 to 34 and won the turnover battle 13-8. Michael Gbinije filled the stat sheet with 11 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals. Tyler Roberson also contributed with 10 points and 8 rebounds. They did a much better job of getting to the free throw line than Virginia as they went 20-25 and Virginia went 10-12. Syracuse is the first # 10 seed to make the Final Four since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
Syracuse and North Carolina have played twice already this season with UNC winning both with the last being a 75-70 win in Chapel Hill. Since that win UNC has won 8 in a row while Syracuse lost their next 2 games before the tournament started. Syracuse is 2-0 against the spread in the tournament including 2-0 when they were the underdog. North Carolina has gone 3-1 against the spread and has been the favorite in every game so far. UNC is a 10-point favorite and has averaged over 89 points per game in this tournament. Syracuse has only averaged 69 points so far but put up 47 points in the second half against Virginia. These 2 coaches met in the 2003 Championship game with Jim Boehiem’s Syracuse team beating Row William’s Kansas team 81-78.
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