No telling if North Carolina is truly back on a good path, but the Tar Heels venture for their final road game of the season hoping that's the case.
Syracuse awaits for Monday night's game in Syracuse, N.Y., with the Orange trying to avoid their worst stretch of the season.
It's another potential turning point for North Carolina, with a 78-70 conquest of No. 11 Florida State on Saturday marking the Tar Heels' first victory against a nationally ranked team since November 2019. It snapped a 10-game losing streak against ranked opponents.
The lasting impact is tough to determine given it came a week after a blowout of Louisville followed by a home setback to a sub-.500 Marquette team.
"I thought last week's game against Louisville would have been a springboard, too," Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said. "The dadgum diving board broke and everybody fell in the pond."
Williams holds a 900-261 career record. He joins Syracuse's Jim Boeheim (977 wins) among the four Division I men's coaches with at least 900 victories.
Syracuse's 84-77 loss at Georgia Tech on Saturday was defined by the Yellow Jackets' 54-24 scoring advantage in the paint. That probably doesn't bode well heading into the encounter with North Carolina's strong frontcourt.
Syracuse (13-8, 7-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) has lost two games in a row following a three-game winning streak. This is the second time this season the Orange have dropped consecutive games.
"They're battling and trying, just haven't been good enough in these games," said Boeheim, whose club is trying to avoid its first three-game skid.
The Tar Heels (15-8, 9-5) have endured early shooting struggles in each of their last two games. They recovered Saturday behind a quartet of freshmen.
It was the first time in UNC history that all four players to score in double figures in a game were freshmen. The group consisted of Walker Kessler (20 points), Kerwin Walton (13), R.J. Davis (12) and Caleb Love (12).
The 7-foot-1 Kessler made 9 of 10 shots from the field and added a team-high eight rebounds and four blocks.
"This is a kid that cares," Williams said. "He has got a little bit better, little bit better, little bit better. He deserved the time."
Led by Armando Bacot, North Carolina has six players averaging between 8.1 and 11.2 points per game. Kessler is ninth on the team at 4.1 points per outing, and each of those nine players has appeared in all 23 games.
Alan Griffin's 26 points weren't enough for the Orange at Georgia Tech. This is the middle assignment of Syracuse's stretch of three games in a five-day span, with a make-up home date vs. Clemson added for Wednesday.
There's little time to dwell on the past.
"We'll have to focus right on North Carolina," Boeheim said.
North Carolina topped the Orange 81-75 in a Jan. 12 contest in Chapel Hill, N.C.
--Field Level Media