Chapel Hill, N.C. -
|courtesy of Cuse.com|
"I felt we played well, I thought North Carolina just had a great second half," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said.
Cooney finished with 28 points and Christmas had 22 and 12 rebounds. Michael Gbinije had 16 points and Tyler Roberson 13 for SU.
Marcus Paige led UNC with 22 points including 3-4 from three point range and Nate Britt chipped in 17 including four 3-pointers. Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson also had 17 points apiece.
The Tar Heels outrebounded the Orange 42-27.
The Orange (14-7, 5-3 ACC) ran neck-and-neck with the No. 13 Tar Heels (17-4, 6-1 ACC), through most of the game as they capitalized on the UNC's season high 20 turnovers. Thirteen of the 20 turnovers came in the first half. SU converted the Carolina turnovers into 16 points.
With those converted turnovers, Cooney got the hot hand. He scored 15 of his 28 points, making three of eight from outside the arc.
The half ended with a breakaway layup by Kaleb Joseph at the buzzer giving the Orange a 40-35 lead. The breakaway followed SU's steal of an in-bounds pass by UNC.
Carolina came out hot in the second half, but Syracuse still looked in control of the game.
After several lead changes, a Meeks free throw gave the Tar Heels the lead for good with 8:40 left. The Orange fell behind down the stretch by as many as 11 points.
UNC had 58 points and four blocks in the second half, compared to SU's 43 points.
"It was a very physical game," Christmas said. "This was one of those games that you've just got to play through. That's what we've got to do for the rest of the year."
The 6'9" Christmas struggled scoring in the first half. He had the 6'8" Isaiah Hicks and 6'9" - 270 pound Meeks playing a very physical defense on him.
"They were throwing a bunch of big bodies at me," Christmas said. "You've just got to play through it."
Christmas only scored two points from inside the paint during the first half. Although he struggled with scoring, his aggressiveness got him six chances from the free throw line, all of which he made.
Christmas finished with his seventh double-double of the season and went ten-for-ten on free throws.
"He's played great for us...from the first game, he's been tremendous," Boeheim said. "We just don't have enough size to help him. It's not just the rebounding, but defensively as well."
The Orange has a week off before taking on Virginia Tech at the Dome on Tuesday, February 3.