Off the cuff: Syracuse is difficult to play in this era because of its unusual zone defense. But Carolina hit enough long shots to allow them to get it in to big guys inside. And even when Carolina shots didn't go down, the Tar Heels hit the boards hard for offensive boards and scores.
But, as soon as the game ended, the attention turned to Roy Williams, who recorded his 800th coaching victory.
Williams is now 382-111 at Carolina to go along with is 418-107 record at Kansas.
There was a short ceremony after the game, highlighted by a video of congratulations from former players. Featured among them were Danny Green, who was on the Tar Heels when Williams got to No. 500; Tyler Hansbrough, who was on the team when he reached No. 600 and Marcus Paige, who was a member of the Heels when he won No. 700.
Williams seemed moved by the video as well as the fact that Hansbrough, Mitch Kupchak, Wes Miller and his high school coach Buddy Baldwin were in attendance to see No. 800.
"I hope I get a few more," Williams said, adding that the win total was due to having great players at two great universities.
Florida State came into Chapel Hill with a school-record 12 straight wins but the Tar Heels set the tone at the beginning and followed through at the end.
In the first four minutes the Tar Heels led by nine, and despite an up-and-down first half, still had a nine-point lead at the break.
Florida State turned the ball over 11 times in the first half and missed eight free throws. Despite a better second-half showing from the Seminoles, the Tar Heels won the second half as well with a late 14-2 run.
It was good to see Theo Pinson (12 points and 10 rebounds) and Luke Maye (15 rebounds) contribute in big ways.
Carolina continues to flirt with foul trouble but evidently, on this day at least, has the depth to overcome it. And they did it without super sub Tony Bradley, who sat out with concussion protocols.
Heels win 17th as Roy nails down No. 800
North Carolina picked up its 17th win of the season as Roy Williams won his 800th game as a head coach with an 85-68 victory over Syracuse. (1/16).
Coach Williams said he feels good about getting to No. 800 but that he really wanted to get No. 17 for this year's team. "I never said one thing to the team about it," he said. "I was afraid if other people were saying something about it to them they might be stressed."
The players knew and they sported No. 800 T-shirts after the game and hugged their coach and celebrated with him after the win.
Coach Williams becomes the 11th coach in Division I history to get to 800 wins and he becomes the second fastest to 800 behind only the legendary Adolph Rupp.
Despite the final score, it wasn't always easy for the Tar Heels during the milestone win. But Carolina's interior presence against the Syracuse zone ultimately was the difference.
The Tar Heels outrebounded the Orange 44-24 and came up with 18 offensive rebounds compared to just six for the visitors.
The three starting forwards recorded 30 of those rebounds and scored 64 of Carolina's 85 points. Justin Jackson and Kennedy Meeks each recorded double-doubles as Jackson scored 19 points and hauled in 10 rebounds while Meeks scored 15 points and pulled in 12 rebounds. Isaiah Hicks, however, was the leading scorer with 20 points, along with eight rebounds.
Carolina got a lot of production off its defense. Syracuse turned the ball over 13 times and the Heels scored after 12 of them for a total of 26 points.
Joel Berry, who finished with 10 points, got a couple of three pointers in the first half to help Carolina lead by as many as 12 points.
The Heels extended the lead to 15 early in the second half but the Orange outscored Carolina 12-0 over a two-minute span to get back in it at 45-42.
After whiffing on six straight possessions, the Tar Heels scored on each of six straight possessions to get the lead back up to double figures at 57-46. A Kenny Williams swished three from the left win highlighted the run.
It never got closer than seven again and, after a 13-5 run, the Heels had worked the lead back up to 15 at 79-64 with just 3:36 to play.
Two plays in particular during that spurt got the home crowd on its feet. After a Meeks steal, a streaking Jackson dished to Berry for a fast break bucket for the first highlight play. Then, Jackson drove the length of the court, hit a two-handed, underhanded scoop shot and was fouled for a three-point play.
Tyler Lydon's 26 points kept Syracuse in it but the Orange fell to 11-8 and 3-3 in the ACC.
Carolina, who improves to 17-3 and 5-1 in the ACC, travels to Boston College Saturday at noon.
UNC breaks Florida State's winning streak
Three Tar Heels scored more than 20 each as North Carolina broke open a close game with a late 14-2 run in a 96-83 victory over Florida State in Chapel Hill. (1/14).
The win broke a Seminole 12-game win streak, a school record, and leaves Notre Dame as the only team in the ACC undefeated in league play.
The Tar Heels, who had opened up a 50-41 halftime lead, were ahead by just four points with less than six minutes to play. That's when Theo Pinson, who has missed most of the season with a fracture in his foot, scored his first points of the season. And big points they were.
Starting at midcourt, Pinson drove past three defenders and slammed down a powerful, running dunk to put the Heels up 82-76 with 5:45 to go.
It never got closer than four again as the Heels went on a
14-2 run over the next four minutes to open it up to 96-80 with less than a minute to go.
There were plenty of big plays during the run including a Pinson to Isaiah Hicks alley oop and a Luke Maye to Hicks full-court pass for a dunk. Joel Berry also scored on a drive at the end of a shot clock and Pinson drained a three during the stretch.
Berry led the way with 26 points while Hicks and Justin Jackson tallied 22 each. Pinson finished with 12 points and Maye finished with a career-high 15 rebounds.
Carolina used some strange lineups as a number of players, including Kennedy Meeks who only played 13 minutes, were in foul trouble.
"It was the first time in 29 years where I've had a lineup out there with no post player," UNC coach Roy Williams said about going with a small lineup for good chunks of time.
"We made some shots," he added. "I feel good about a win over a really, really good team."
Carolina came out quick and aggressively, getting out to a 7-0 lead. There were four lead changes after that however. But Berry hit a three with seconds left to give the Heels what felt like a commanding 59-50 lead at the half.
UNC got the lead to 11 but Florida State went on a 9-2 run to get back in it at 54-50.
A 10-2 Carolina run, highlighted by a pair of Jackson threes, opened the lead back to 69-58 with 12 minutes left.
Within five minutes the Seminoles had the lead down to three at 78-75. Soon thereafter Pinson got that big dunk that energized the crowd and led to the 14-2 run that wrapped it up.
Dwayne Bacon's 18 points led Florida State which falls to 16-2 and 4-1 in the ACC.
Carolina, who improves to 16-3 and 4-1 in the ACC, hosts Syracuse Monday night.
Heel Prints reviewed each UNC game
As a student sports editor years ago, prior to the season, Clifton Barnes predicted a national championship for the Tar Heels and indeed they won. In fact he wrote his lede paragraph for the national championship game almost a year early. He regrets that he didn't keep a journal after each game. He kept a journal after each game of the 2007-2008 season and you can reach them here. At the request of readers, he has kept up his journal of each game ever since. He also has written about UNC baseball and wrote an analysis after each 2008 UNC football game.
Editor's Note: HeelPrints chronicled the UNC basketball, baseball and football seasons for 2008 and 2009. Since the vast majority of comments I get about the site relate to basketball and since this isn't a paying job for me, I decided to limit my coverage and analysis to basketball. Baseball and football will remain archived and if I have comments or opinions I want to make on those or any other sports at UNC, I will make them here on the front page and then archive them in the corresponding sports section. Thanks for all the positive comments I have received about the site. Should I get sponsorship in the future, I will reconsider adding baseball and football again. Ironically, my favorite sports to watch in person are baseball and football. But my first connections to UNC came from watching Dean Smith's basketball teams on TV or listening to them on the radio in the days before all the games were televised. It should come as no surprise that people pay more attention to the basketball coverage. Thanks for your interest in this site.