Opponent preview: What to know about No. 5 seed North Carolina

first_imgNo. 4-seed Syracuse (9-3, 2-2 Atlantic Coast) faces No. 5-seed North Carolina (7-6, 1-3) on Thursday at 6 p.m. in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in the ACC tournament play-in game. The Orange ended the regular season with a 18-9 drubbing of Navy and the Tar Heels sunk to 1-3 in conference play with a loss at Notre Dame.Here’s what to know about the matchup.All-time series: 18-8, Syracuse leads.The last time they played: The Orange ground out a 12-9 victory over North Carolina last weekend to finish .500 in ACC play. Through one half, SU and UNC scored seven apiece. Then, Syracuse pulled away, shutting out the Tar Heels in the third quarter while scoring four goals of its own.  The North Carolina report: The Tar Heels finished the regular season last in the ACC, going 1-3 with the lone win coming against Duke. UNC scores at a top-20 rate and allows 10.08 goals per game. AdvertisementThis is placeholder textWhat’s hamstrung North Carolina the most is struggles to win faceoffs, currently winning fewer than half (49.4 percent). Their top faceoff man, Zachary Tucci, is just above 50 percent, currently (144-of-287).Tucci’s main struggle, along with most of North Carolina’s, is rooted in youth. The Tar Heels goalie and faceoff specialist are both true-freshmen. While UNC’s talent showed in a win against Duke, the Tar Heels have largely struggled against superior competition. How Syracuse beats UNC: Win faceoffs and control the ball.This recipe has been working for Syracuse since an ugly, turnover-heavy loss at Notre Dame in late March. Since then, John Desko has preached how SU needs to make possessions count and maximize the number it was getting.The quickest path to more possessions is winning more faceoffs, something the Orange didn’t struggle to do against the Tar Heels first time around. If the Orange do that Thursday, it will be in good shape.Once the ball gets to the offense, Syracuse can ride with a top attack line that recently combined for 17 points against Navy. Playing from behind the cage to space out the offense, the Orange should look to methodically break down the Tar Heels through spacing, deliberate passing and smart shooting.Stat to know: 1086 days — It’s been nearly three years since Syracuse last won an ACC tournament game. The last time was May 1, 2016, when the Orange downed Duke, 14-8, in the title game.Player to watch: Tanner Cook, junior midfielder, No. 77After beating Navy, when looking ahead to a rematch with the Tar Heels, John Desko mentioned Cook, the Tar Heels left-handed Canadian. He noted Cook scored two goals against Notre Dame after going nearly silent through much of the second half of the season. In Cook, the Tar Heels might have a new offensive element. Comments Published on April 22, 2019 at 7:20 pm Contact Andrew: aegraham@syr.edu | @A_E_Grahamcenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more