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Off the cuff: While Marcus Paige's three that pushed the lead back up to 10 in the second half was a huge play. Perhaps the most important part of the game came in the first half.

At the under 8 minute mark of the first half, North Carolina took the lead with a nifty pass from Justin Jackson to Kennedy Meeks who scored and was fouled. After the free throw, the Heels were up 21-18 . They never trailed again.

During the 9-0 run that created some separation, Carolina was able to split the zone to get short jumpers, layups or follow shots. During one stretch in the first half, the UNC defense held Syracuse to only two of 13 shots. During another stretch, Syracuse didn’t score for more than three minutes.

After missing a slew of three pointers, North Carolina got back to its game plan to attack inside and the Tar Heels edged away with a 39-28 halftime lead. The Tar Heels missed all 10 three pointers in the half but they hit 68 percent of their two-point shots in the first half. The four big men combined for 27 points, including nine from Kennedy Meeks, who did not missed a shot.

It's good to see Meeks coming up big for the Tar Heels.


Tar Heels 83, Syracuse 66
UNC too much for 'Cuse, on to the finals

North Carolina survived a poor three-point shooting night and a Syracuse run in the second half to beat the Orange going away, 83-66, and advance to the NCAA championship game against Villanova Monday night. (04/02)

It will be the 10th time that a North Carolina team has played for the national championship with the last title coming in 2009.

Against Syracuse, the Tar Heels missed 11 straight three pointers but they were able to get the ball inside throughout the game. Despite hitting only 4 of 17 threes, the Heels shot 54 percent for the game, including 60 percent in the second half. Carolina ended with 50 points in the paint, including 16 from Brice Kennedy and 15 from Kennedy Meeks. Swingman Justin Jackson also got inside several times and ended with 16 points, including 12 in the second half.

“We weren’t playing our game at the beginning,” said guard Joel Berry, who finished with a game-high 10 assists. “We couldn’t get it uptempo. We weren’t shooting well so we tried to penetrate and get it inside.”

Getting inside for easy baskets, the Tar Heels eventually wore down the Orange, who tried to pressure and trap when they got down big but they appeared out of gas. Carolina repeatedly split the traps or got fouled and hit free throws, and broke the press for fast break dunks and layups.

In the first half, there were six ties and six lead changes but Carolina actually started to take control with its best player, Brice Johnson, on the bench with two fouls.

With the score tied at 18, the Tar Heels went on a 9-0 run highlighted by a Kennedy Meeks old-fashioned three-point play and a transition jumper by Marcus Paige. Carolina never trailed again after getting up 27-18 although the game was closer than the final score would indicate.

The Tar Heels took their first double-digit lead of the game on a highlight reel driving layup by Theo Pinson with 1:20 left in the half, making it 37-27. Carolina upped the lead to a first-half high 12 points at 39-27 before settling for a 39-28 halftime lead.

In the second half, Carolina upped the margin to 17 points at 57-40 with 12:26 left on a Berry layup. But Syracuse went on a 10-0 run, highlighted by three-point shots by Trevor Cooney and Malachi Richardson, to cut the lead to just seven with 9:51 to go.

UNC coach Roy Williams got as mad as he’s been all season during the run as Carolina turned the ball over two of three times down the court, and then watched a missed shot roll between several Tar Heels before a Syracuse player came up with it and scored.

“I screamed as loud at my players as I have all year,” Williams said. “My pulse went up quite a bit.”

But Paige finally hit Carolina’s first three of the game and it came at an opportune time, giving the Heels a 60-50 lead and starting a 10-3 run that helped the Heels overcome the Syracuse run.

“I got really excited when he hit that three,” Williams said. “It couldn’t be more appropriate that it was Marcus Paige who did that for us.”

During Carolina’s responding run, Theo Pinson canned a three from the top of the key and Meeks aggressively scored after two tips to give the Heels control of the game again at 67-53.

It never got closer than 11 the rest of the way as Carolina worked the margin up to a game-high 19 points with a little more than a minute to go.

Box Score

Syracuse-UNC Final Four.

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