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Off the cuff: It wasn't one of Marcus Paige's best games but he managed eight assists. He scored just six points and he missed five of six three pointers.

Two of those missed threes were way out and there was plenty of time left in the shot clock to get a better look. The back-to-back three attempts happened early in the second half and a 44-38 UNC edge quickly dwindled to 44-43.

Two years ago Syracuse stomped Carolina 57-45 on their home floor in a game that wasn't as close as the final tally. Some of the UNC players remembered that performance.

"Our guys are extremely excited in that locker room," UNC coach Roy Williams said.


Tar Heels 84, Syracuse 73
Nifty assists key UNC's comeback win

Brice Johnson went from having his best scoring and rebounding earlier in the week to getting a career-high eight assists, several of them to Isaiah Hicks who led North Carolina with a career-tying 21 points en route to an 84-73 win at Syracuse. (1/9)

Trailing by six at 56-50 just past midway through the second half, the Tar Heels put together a string of highlight-reel assists to take a lead and they never looked back. Justin Jackson got it to Johnson at the free throw line and he immediately zipped a pass to Hicks, breaking down the baseline, for a dunk. And he drew the foul. After the free throw, the Heels trailed 56-53.

Half a minute later, UNC's Nate Britt came up with a steal and pushed it forward to Jackson for a dunk to draw the Heels within a point.

After a Syracuse timeout, the Tar Heels continued the assist onslaught as Paige lobbed a pass over and across the paint to Jackson, who banked it in for a 57-56 lead.

With the Heels up 59-58, they went on a 16-8 run to take a commanding nine-point lead at 75-66 with just two minutes to play. During the stretch, Joel Berry got just Carolina's third three pointer of the game. And Johnson continued the assist barrage with a pair to Hicks, who finished the plays with dunks.

"It was high-low all day," Hicks said. "I have to give that to Brice."

UNC coach Roy Williams agreed that the Heels did a good job getting it to Johnson high up in the paint and he made some good passes down low.

The Tar Heels shot nearly 65 percent in the second half against a Syracuse zone that bothered them in first half. Carolina scored 51 points in the second half, compared to just 33 in the first half when it was tied at 33-all.

Carolina had four in double figures led by Hicks' 21. Johnson and Jackson each scored 16 while Berry finished with 14. Kennedy Meeks, who missed seven games with an injury, played 14 minutes and scored eight points. As long as he stays healthy, Meeks will get more and more playing time, Coach Williams said.

Syracuse, led by Trevor Cooney's season-high 27 points, hit six three pionts in the first half but cooled off in the second half, going just three of 13. The Orange fall to 10-7 overall and 0-4 in the league while Carolina improves to 15-2 and 4-0 in the ACC. It's the first time in the Roy Williams era that one of his teams has started the ACC season with four wins.

The Tar Heels return home to play NC State Saturday at noon.


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