Jan. 25—SYRACUSE — Caleb Love made three free throws over the final 10 seconds to further heighten a wide discrepancy at the foul line and cap off a chaotic win for North Carolina over Syracuse on Tuesday night.
Judah Mintz was called for a charge with 10.7 seconds left with a chance to push the Orange ahead, and the Tar Heels held on for the 72-68 Atlantic Coast Conference men's basketball victory in front of the largest crowd of the season, containing 20,761 fans in the JMA Wireless Dome.
North Carolina made 14 of 23 free throws, including a 12-for-21 mark in the second half, while SU went just 2-for-3 at on the foul line overall. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim described the vast difference as "unusual," in a one-word answer when asked afterward.
"If you watched the game, I guess you could tell that it wasn't even," said a visibly frustrated Mintz afterward.
SU senior shooting guard Joe Girard III added: "We had aggressive drives, it just didn't get called our way, and that happens. It's just a part of the game and you have to move on from it."
The most critical call against SU came with 10.7 seconds left trailing, 69-68, and Mintz slashing into the paint to attempt the potential go-ahead bucket.
The freshman point guard got the ball up court quickly and drove hard to the lane at UNC point guard R.J. Davis and was whistled for a charge as both hit the deck. Mintz brought his arms up with the ball on the play and his elbow collided with Davis' face during the act.
Davis went down and stayed on the court bleeding — UNC coach Hubert Davis said that R.J. was alert afterward and was cut above the eye — and he took a couple minutes to gather himself and walk off the court with trainers.
The play was reviewed and called a flagrant-one as opposed to the common foul, giving two free throws plus possession to UNC. Love stepped to the line and made one of two attempts, handled the ensuing inbound pass, and made another pair to finish off the victory.
"That's a tough call, a tough play, you can go either way with it obviously," Girard said of the flagrant call. "When someone is bleeding, it's kind of tough not to call it."
Girard scored 18 points, including a 4-for-9 mark from beyond the 3-point arc, Mintz scored 17, and Chris Bell added 15 points to lead the Orange (13-8 overall, 6-4 ACC).
Pete Nance scored 21 points to lead the Tar Heels (15-6, 7-3), while Armando Bacot and Love added 18 and 15 points, respectively.
The final sequence dampened a thrilling comeback in the second half for Syracuse, which trailed by as much as 10 with 12 minutes and 40 seconds left.
Girard drained a 3-pointer after a pump fake to push SU ahead, 68-66, with 1:27 left to send the crowd with a packed student section into a frenzy.
Nance made a free throw on the other end then missed the second, but he scored the go-ahead bucket on a scramble afterward for UNC. Girard saved the ball from going out of bounds under the basket and accidentally tossed it back into Nance, who laid it in for the 69-68 advantage with 17 seconds left.
Mintz scored 10 of his 17 points after halftime, including a stretch of six straight, a sequence capped by his go-ahead basket off the drive to put SU in front, 63-62, with four minutes left.
"We're playing zone and we had three free throws against their 23, that's not a good number, but we battled hard and did everything we could to get back into it," Boeheim said.
Syracuse suffered its second four-point loss with a chance to go ahead in the final 30 seconds in a little more than a week after losing to Miami, 82-78, on Jan. 16 in similar heart-breaking fashion.
Syracuse will next face Virginia Tech (12-8, 2-7) at 7 p.m. Saturday in Blacksburg, Va.