(North Carolina Head Coach Roy Williams addresses the team – @UNC_Basketball)
North Carolina took care of business tonight in Houston and put a stop to the magic show that’s been Syracuse in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Brice Johnson and Justin Johnson finished with 16 points each to lead the number one seed Tar Heels to a 83-66 victory over the Orange. North Carolina now advances to play number two seed Villanova in the National Title game, Monday night.
Syracuse was the first number 10 seed to reach the FInal Four, their second half comeback over number one seed Virginia in the Elite Eight will go down as legendary. The Orange attempted another second half comeback tonight, North Carolina, however, would turn to Marcus Paige as their counterpunch to secure the victory.
The Orange, fueled by the play of Trevor Cooney and Malachi Richardson, sliced into a 17-point North Carolina lead in the second half to get within seven when Paige began to dial it up from long range.
The Tar Heels, not known for their three-point shooting, went 0 for 11 tonight before finally focusing on getting their points closer to the basket.
Once Syracuse began to make their push, Paige got it going. The senior guard nailed three crucial shots from downtown which would help take the air out of Syracuse’s comeback attempt.
The Orange looked totally wiped out from frantically trying to get back into the game. In the end, however, North Carolina was too strong, too fast, and too good.
The difference in this game for North Carolina, as expected, were the points in the paint. The Tar Heels outscored Syracuse 50-32. Syracuse’s vaunted zone defense couldn’t keep the Tar Heels from causing havoc under the basket. North Carolina also out-rebounded the Orange, 43-31. The strength of this team is their frontline, they wore Syracuse down tonight.
Paige finished the night with 13 points, for North Carolina. Kennedy Meeks added 15 points and eight rebounds.
Cooney led the Orange with 22 points. Richardson added 17 points.
North Carolina Head Coach Roy Williams said of the win, “Needless to say we’re ecstatic. I’ll get something out of the way first tonight. I really wish Stuart Scott was here tonight. I really wish Dean Smith and Bill Guthridge and my best friend in Chapel Hill, Ted Seagroves, was here. It’s been a difficult year and a half because of all of that. They’re up there smiling somewhere and having a good time. Stuart is saying Booyah, so I like that.
“Second part I’d like to say. I was back there listening to Jimmy’s questions. Jimmy (Boeheim) told you to stop asking him about retirement. He said, Ask Roy. You have asked me that question five times since I got into town. If I’m going to retire, I think I’ll retire in the next two minutes. How good do you think the chances of me retiring in the next two minutes? So don’t ask me that stupid question either.
“Other than that, it’s been a great afternoon, a great night. I screamed loud at my players. Had a timeout because we let a loose ball roll on the floor and Syracuse got after it better than we did. Had two turnovers in three possessions. Then we had a rebound that came out and we had four guys stand there and look at it. Syracuse got that one.
“So my pulse went up quite a bit, my heart rate went up quite a bit. After that Joel Berry, Marcus Paige, Brice Kennedy, those guys really did a nice job.
“Couldn’t be prouder for a team than I am for a team this right here. We beat a Syracuse team that has been great down the stretch and is very difficult for us to play. We didn’t shoot the ball well on the three-point line the first half. Jimmy asked me when we came out at halftime and asked me if we’re going to keep shooting them. I said yes, because North Carolina tries to have good balance inside and outside.
“The two biggest baskets in the game were when they cut it to seven and Marcus makes a three, I think Theo makes a three right behind it. These guys up here were sensational. I couldn’t be having a more fantastic ride than I’m having right now.”