SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- For the moment, at least, the Syracuse men's basketball team put an end to North Carolina's Jekyll-and-Hyde season in which it had more success against top-ranked teams than also-rans.
Forwards C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant combined for 32 points and 20 rebounds as the No. 2 Orange thumped the Tar Heels, 57-45, on Saturday in a nationally televised game at the Carrier Dome before 32,121 fans -- the largest on-campus crowd of the college basketball season.
In a historic meeting between two of the top five all-time winningest programs in Division I and two of the five active NCAA coaches in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (Jim Boeheim of Syracuse and Roy Williams of North Carolina), the Orange handed the Tar Heels their third consecutive defeat to start the ACC season.
Earlier this season, the Tar Heels defeated Kentucky, Louisville and Michigan State, the top three teams in the Associated Press preseason poll.
But since beating Kentucky on Dec. 14, North Carolina (10-6) is 3-4, and 0-3 in the ACC for only the second time in school history.
"Everybody's healthy, but 0-3 is not where we want to be right now," Tar Heels junior forward James Michael McAdoo said. "It's up to us, not the coaching staff, but us guys to take what they taught us and go out there and play our game.:
First-year ACC member Syracuse (15-0, 3-0) is one of four unbeaten teams in Division I, along with No. 1 Arizona, No. 4 Wisconsin and No. 6 Wichita State, after No. 9 Iowa State was upset by Oklahoma on Saturday. Boeheim is 4-1 lifetime against Williams.
"There's definitely a sense of pride and bragging rights, meeting (North Carolina) for the first time in the ACC," Fair said. "We wanted to throw that first punch."
Fair, the ACC Preseason Player of the Year, had 20 points and eight rebounds, while Grant finished with 12 and 12. Point guard Tyler Ennis, one of the nation's top freshmen, added 10 points and seven assists.
Marcus Paige led the Tar Heels with 17 points and McAdoo added 15 points and nine boards. The Tar Heels shot 39 percent (20-for-51) against Syracuse's 2-3 zone defense as it finished with its lowest point total in 17 years.
"We made some unbelievable defensive plays, some of the best we've made all year," Boeheim said. "Jerami (Grant) made a couple of blocks, Rock (Rakeem Christmas) blocked a layup, we made some steals. It was just our defense that won the basketball game, period."
With McAdoo leading the way, the Tar Heels raced out to a 10-4 lead. McAdoo's dunk to finish a fast break gave North Carolina a 15-11 lead with 11:57 remaining in the first half.
But sparked by Fair and Grant, the Orange went on a 10-0 run and outscored the Tar Heels, 23-7, the rest of the half to build a 34-22 cushion at halftime.
After McAdoo's dunk, North Carolina managed only three field goals, two on goaltending calls, and one free throw.
"I just thought they were so much more aggressive, had so much more intensity than we did, and it's very disappointing," Williams said. "It seemed like every loose ball, it just didn't bounce their way, they went and got it."
The Orange, which shot only 35 percent (21-for-60), outrebounded the Tar Heels, 41-35, overall and by 22-13 in the decisive first half. Syracuse also recorded nine blocked shots (four by Christmas) and nine steals (five by Trevor Cooney).
"This was a defensive effort game," Boeheim said. "We got loose balls, we got on the floor, we made a lot of good hustle plays. And that was the difference; we got a lot of extra possessions in this basketball game."
With Fair and Grant combing for 23 first-half points, the Orange easily weathered 3-point specialist Cooney's poor game. Cooney, who was shooting 45 percent from 3-point range entering the game, shot 2-for-12 from beyond the arc.
Cooney's first 3-pointer early in the second half sparked an 8-0 spurt that boosted the Orange lead to 42-24. Fair finished that run with five consecutive points.
The Tar Heels reduced their deficit to 47-35 on back-to-back baskets by Paige. But Ennis completed a 3-point play to start a 9-1 Syracuse spurt that gave the Orange a 55-36 advantage.
While North Carolina's 0-3 ACC start is new territory, it's worth noting that the Tar Heels went to the NCAA tournament each of the previous four times it started 0-2 in the league.
North Carolina has won at least 11 conference games after each of its last three 0-2 ACC starts. And twice it has shrugged off consecutive losses to start league play to reach the Final Four (including during the 2009 championship season).
Syracuse is looking to become the first team since the 1991-92 Arkansas Razorbacks to win a regular-season title in its first year after joining a major conference.
"We're just trying to win the ACC, that;s the first goal," Grant said. "And the second goal is the national championship."
NOTES: Jim Boeheim of Syracuse, a 2005 Hall of Fame inductee, and Roy Williams of North Carolina, a 2007 inductee, rank second and fourth in victories among active Division I coaches. Boeheim has 936 wins, second all-time to Mike Krzyzewski of Duke, while Williams remained at 710 victories. ... Before Saturday, North Carolina and Syracuse had met only once in the last 26 seasons, an 87-71 Orange victory at Madison Square Garden early in the 2011-12. The all-time series is tied, 4-4. ... Say a prayer for poor Boston College (4-12, 0-3 in the ACC after losing to Virginia Tech Saturday). In a scheduling quirk, Boston College is the next opponent for Syracuse (Monday) and North Carolina (Jan. 18). ... The Tar Heels have played in the Carrier Dome four times in NCAA Tournament play, including the 2005 East Regional on their way to the national championship, and the 1997 East Regional, when legendary coach Dean Smith recorded his final victory.