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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Cole Swider had already lost rebounding positioning on Armando Bacot by the time Brady Manek’s hook shot left his hand, with the UNC center pushing Swider away from the basket. Less than eight minutes remained in the second half, with Syracuse leading by one after Swider hit a jumper on the other side. The potential to grow that lead emerged even more when Manek’s attempt spun out.
But with Bourama Sidibe near the foul line, and Swider controlled by the right block, the Orange had no one left to deter Bacot from tipping the missed shot in. His right hand tapped the ball, and his chest swerved as the ball curled around the back of the rim and dropped through the net.
It was Bacot’s last field goal against the Orange in UNC’s 88-79 win, but he added a pair of free throws in regulation’s closing minutes, along with rebounds in overtime, to finish with 17 points and 18 rebounds. Bacot’s 23rd double-double of the season also served as the sixth by an opposing center in the last seven games for SU, the result of unsolved center problems and spotty rebounding by the wings
The stretch started on Feb. 8 against Boston College, when Syracuse’s season still had a small chance at culminating with a postseason berth, and continued as the Orange collapsed over the next three weeks. They lost their starting center, Jesse Edwards, for the season, with SU still unable to consistently plug his gap. Frank Anselem isn’t ready, still. Sidibe hasn’t fully recovered from knee injuries. And Monday served as the latest sample in the collection of the Orange’s vulnerability when it comes to defending an opponent’s tallest player.
“We’re getting beat more and more on the boards now,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said postgame. “And inside defensively we can’t stop people — Bacot. Manek inside. Pretty much the same thing all over again with Duke. … We just aren’t able to stop anything inside
Containing Bacot was a matchup that Buddy Boeheim had foreshadowed after the Orange lost to Duke on Saturday, when they allowed Blue Devils center Mark Williams to total 28 points and 12 rebounds. Bacot had the potential to dominate inside like Quinten Post, James Karnik, Rodney Howard, Paul Atkinson Jr. and Williams did before. Bacot, a junior, had recorded three consecutive double-doubles entering Monday night, including 28 points and 18 rebounds in the Tar Heels’ win over NC State on Feb. 26.
Maya Goosmann | Digital Design Director
“Bacot is really good. That’s the best big in the league,” Buddy said, “so it’s got to be a team effort and we really have to stop him.”
Since Edwards’ injury, the Orange have experimented with Anselem or Sidibe at center, along with a small lineup featuring Jimmy Boeheim. But they haven’t outrebounded a team since Louisville on Feb. 5, three days before Edwards got hurt. And in their last three games, they’ve been outrebounded by 40 and have allowed the three opposing centers — Notre Dame’s Atkinson, Duke’s Williams and UNC’s Bacot — to combine for 65 points and 47 rebounds.
For the most part in the first half, Syracuse contained Bacot, though. He scored nine points but only grabbed four rebounds, and the Orange were only outrebounded as a team by three. Within the game’s first four minutes, he grabbed an offensive rebound and drew the first foul on starting center Anselem. Then, he grabbed another offensive rebound three minutes later after the Tar Heels missed a 3. This time, Buddy blocked his second-chance shot.
Maya Goosmann | Digital Design Director
As the half stretched on, though, and carried over into the second half and overtime, Bacot started to settle in. He tipped in a Manek miss with three minutes left in the opening frame despite three SU defenders surrounding him. Bacot also drew two fouls on Swider, SU’s leading scorer with 36 points, to help him go from zero fouls at halftime to five in the next 22 minutes.
“We have to really score and shoot the ball well which we did for a long period of time today,” Boeheim said on Monday. “We don’t have an inside presence there.”
In overtime, Bacot caught a pass in the high post and threaded a pass to Manek on the block for a high-low sequence that served as UNC’s first basket of the extra period. And when the Orange missed their next three baskets, Bacot grabbed all three defensive rebounds — sparking the offense as the Tar Heels raced out to a 10-1 run that pushed Syracuse out of reach.
The post Armando Bacot becomes 7th player in last 7 games to record double-double vs. SU appeared first on The Daily Orange.