North Carolina head basketball coach Roy Williams gives instructions to his players during the first half against Kansas in the NCAA Basketball Midwest Regional Championship on March 25, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. File photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
NEW YORK -- Battled-tested No. 12 North Carolina takes on Syracuse in the second round of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament on Wednesday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Syracuse (20-12) won its first game of the ACC Tournament since joining in 2013-14, knocking off Wake Forest 73-64 on Tuesday in the opening round. The Orange lost to Miami, North Carolina State and Pittsburgh.
Orange freshman Marek Dolezaj delivered a career-high 20 points for his fifth double-digit scoring game of the season. Sophomore Tyus Battle, who entered the night as one of three ACC players averaging 20-plus points per game, got off to a fast start with 12 points in the first 11 minutes. He connected on four of his first five shots from the floor, including one 3-pointer, finishing with 18 points to join Dolezaj in five Orange in double figures.
The Tar Heels (22-9) are 97-45 in the tournament. They played 17 postseason games across the last two years -- nine games after the regular season in 2016 and eight more last year on their way to a national championship.
Carolina won 18 ACC Tournament championships and played in the championship game a record 34 times.
North Carolina's postseason record the past two years is 15-2. This is the first time UNC has ever been the No. 6 seed and the 56th time in 65 seasons the Tar Heels have finished in the top three in the ACC regular-season standings.
Carolina is 10-4 against Syracuse, including 6-1 since the Orange joined the ACC. The Tar Heels have won the last six games. This will be the first meeting between the two schools in the ACC Tournament.
The Tar Heels defeated Syracuse 78-74 in the regular season.
"We played pretty well, but they're a really, really good team," said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, now in his 42nd year with the Orange. "They're [North Carolina], capable of beating anybody in the country when they play well, and they're going to come in and play well.
"But they've got veteran guys that have won National Championships, contended for one and won one, so they're a really good team, and it's a great challenge.
Joel Berry II (17.8) and Luke Maye (17.7) lead Carolina in scoring. The last time two Tar Heels averaged 17 points or more in the same season was 1983-84, when Michael Jordan (19.6) and Sam Perkins (17.6) were UNC's top scoring duo.
Berry and Maye rank fourth and fifth, respectively, in scoring in the ACC. This is the first time the Tar Heels have two of the top five scorers in the ACC since 2012, when Harrison Barnes (17.1) was third and ACC Player of the Year Tyler Zeller (16.3) was fifth.
Maye is on pace to become the sixth Tar Heel to average a double-double in the last 40 years with Brice Johnson (2016), John Henson (2011), Tyler Hansbrough (2008), Sean May (2005) and Antawn Jamison (1998).
Maye was named first-team All-ACC, the ACC's Most Improved Player, third-team All-America by The Sporting News and is one of 15 finalists for the Wooden Award.
"I talked to him [Maye] a little bit about the awards and the way he played in the second half," Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said. "I said, 'You got to be where you are by sweating.' You put in the work. You got to be this player because you did the work, so be more confident, be more comfortable, and know who you are because you're a really good player."