North Carolina led for 58 minutes in Tuesday’s 72-68 win over Syracuse. But that final minute of those 58 was a stressful one.
After blowing a 10-point lead in the second half, UNC watched Syracuse take a 68-66 lead with just over a minute left as Joe Girard hit a big three-pointer. The Tar Heels were staring down another road loss and a 6-4 conference record.
That is until a heads-up play by Pete Nance changed things.
Trailing by two, Nance went to the free throw line with just over 20 seconds left with the chance to tie. He split the pair but was able to grab a loose ball on the second attempt after Joe Girard tried to save it from going out of bounds. The ball went into Nance’s hands and he laid it in to give UNC a 69-68 lead.
On the ensuing drive, Judah Mintz was called for a charge as he drove to the basket and elbowed R.J. Davis in the face.
The play was ruled a flagrant 1 as Davis lay on the ground shaken up. Caleb Love finished the play by splitting the free throws and then making the next two after being fouled on the in-bounds play to seal the game.
After a hot start that saw UNC build an early lead led by Caleb Love making his first three three-pointers, Syracuse fought back. The Orange cut into the lead before the break and trailed just 38-34 behind the play of Joe Girard and Judah Mintz.
Syracuse even took the lead early in the second half before UNC fought back on the play of Armando Bacot. But in the end, it was the Tar Heels that prevailed for the big road win.
Davis did not return to the game and his status will be something to monitor before next week’s two games.
Nance finished the game with 21 points while Bacot had 18. Love dropped 15 including going 3 of 5 from the three-point line.
UNC moves to 15-6 overall and 7-3 in Atlantic Coast Conference play. They will take on Pitt at home next week before traveling to Durham to face Duke on February 4th.
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