Armando Bacot, North Carolina Tar Heels, ACC Basketball

The North Carolina Tar Heels survived multiple Syracuse second half leads, coming away with a key road win.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (CBB REVIEW) – The North Carolina Tar Heels defeated Syracuse, 72-68, but not without a controversial call down the stretch.

Pete Nance led the way with 21 points, and came up with a key steal and bucket to give the Tar Heels a lead that they wouldn’t look back from. Armando Bacot chipped in 18 points and Caleb Love added 15 points for the Heels.

For Syracuse, Joe Girard III once again led the team in points with 18. Judah Mintz was right behind with 17, followed by Chris Bell with 15 points.

The win gives North Carolina a lot of breathing room at 15-6. Meanwhile, Syracuse’s bubble just got closer to bursting, falling to 13-8 on the season.

Takeaway #1: Free throws do decide games

North Carolina shot 23 free throws.

Syracuse shot 3 free throws.

You can really look at this differential in one of two ways. UNC only shot 14-of-23 from the line. Had the Heels been more efficient, it might not have been a one-possession game down the stretch.

Of course, Syracuse Orange fans were not happy with the trifecta of attempts from the line. Had it been even, Syracuse likely would have edged out a win.

I’ll leave it up for each person to decide what they think, but all I’ll say is, 20 free throw attempts is a big difference.

Takeaway #2: Pete Nance is starting to come into his own

When the Tar Heels got Pete Nance out of the transfer portal from Northwestern, comparisons were immediately made to him filling Brady Manek’s role. It didn’t happen right away, but Nance is slowly showing why he was such a coveted pickup in the offseason.

The UNC big man made all sorts of plays in the 2-3 zone, finishing with a game-high 21 points. Nance also came away with a trio of steals, with the last one leading to his go-ahead score with 19 seconds left.

Nance arguably had his best game of the season against Syracuse. His 21 points are the second-most in a game this season and most in ACC play. Nance had a season-best 28 against Portland.

If Nance can consistently turn into a fourth consistent scoring option, there’s no reason the North Carolina Tar Heels can’t head back to the Final Four.

Takeaway #3: Judah Mintz needs to slow down

The Syracuse Orange freshman guard is as fun to watch as anyone in ACC basketball.

But sometimes, it costs his team.

Mintz took matters into his own hands multiple times down the stretch. On a high note, he gave Syracuse its first lead of the game.

On a low note, he was called for a charge with 10 seconds left, while going for the go-ahead lead. It was upgraded to a Flagrant 1, putting the game out of reach for the Orange.

If Syracuse is to build on its good play as of late, it’ll need Mintz to make better plays at the end of games. The Orange are far from out of the picture, but with February approaching, need to start picking up a few quality wins.

Next game for the North Carolina Tar Heels: Pitt (Feb. 1 – 7 p.m.)

Next game for the Syracuse Orange: @ Virginia Tech (Jan. 28 – 7 p.m.)