Kenny Williams scored 17 points as No. 12 North Carolina repelled a second-half Syracuse rally and produced a 78-59 victory in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament’s second round Wednesday night at the Barclays Center in New York.
Sixth-seeded North Carolina (23-9), which ended the regular season with a two-game losing skid, meets third-seeded Miami in Thursday night’s quarterfinals.
That will be a rematch from Miami’s buzzer-beating victory last week on North Carolina’s Senior Night.
Theo Pinson provided 16 points, while Cameron Johnson and Luke Maye both posted 13 points for the Tar Heels.
Oshae Brissett’s 20 points led Syracuse (20-13), while Tyus Battle added 15 points and Frank Howard had 12 points. Howard and Battle, a high-scoring backcourt duo, combined to shoot 8-for-39 from the field.
Eleventh-seeded Syracuse, which seems to be on the NCAA Tournament bubble, couldn’t duplicate the performance from a night earlier when it defeated Wake Forest.
Syracuse center Paschal Chukwu fouled out with two points with 16:26 remaining.
North Carolina’s lead grew to 56-35 with slightly less than 13 minutes to play.
The Orange closed within 60-48 with 6:43 remaining. Pinson answered for the Tar Heels with a nifty move in the lane for a basket.
Syracuse cut it to 66-57 with more than four minutes left. The Orange then failed to score on its next four possessions as the Tar Heels scored on a series of transition breakouts.
North Carolina led 39-29 at halftime despite shooting 38.7 percent from the field, including 3-for-10 on 3-pointers. The Tar Heels collected 11 offensive rebounds by the break.
The Tar Heels used 10-for-11 free-throw shooting in the opening half to help offset Syracuse’s 7-for-13 shooting on 3-pointers (with Brissett going 4-for-4). The Orange were 3-for-15 on 2-point attempts and committed nine turnovers.
Syracuse was without a free-throw attempt until the 2:02 mark of the half.
North Carolina held a 9-0 edge in bench scoring in the first half.
Syracuse went through a scoring drought of more than five minutes as the Tar Heels stretched a one-point lead to 31-19.
The Tar Heels built their lead despite All-ACC first-team player Joel Berry II going scoreless at 0-for-6 in the first half. He ended up with eight points.
—Field Level Media