Isaiah Hicks, UNC spoil Jim Boeheim’s return in 84-73 win at Syracuse

Jim Boeheim’s return ended in a loss, and Syracuse is now 0-4 in ACC play. (USATSI)

North Carolina is off to a great start in ACC competition after a few missteps in non-conference play. Syracuse has hung with every ACC opponent only to fall short down the stretch. Two historic programs entered a pivotal game on Saturday night with a lot on the line, but all of those storylines fell second to the return of Jim Boeheim.

Everything about Boeheim’s return from a nine-game NCAA suspension was an event. The largest crowd to watch a basketball game this season showed up to the Carrier Dome, no doubt enthused by the awesome hype video released on Friday. Boeheim’s no-comment entrance into the arena was an event worth documenting, and when he was introduced to the crowd there was a standing ovation.

Then the game started.

The big on-court story was not the return of a coach but the return of UNC big man Kennedy Meeks. Meeks off came off the bench to provide 8 points with a couple good buckets in the first half, but Roy Williams didn’t need him to push much more thanks to a stellar game from Isaiah Hicks.

Hicks came off the bench to provide 20 points on 5-for-5 shooting with a 10-for-11 showing at the free throw line. When North Carolina settled for jump shots over Syracuse’s zone defense, the Orange pushed ahead. When the Tar Heels worked the ball inside through Brice Johnson (12 points, seven assists), the efficiency was noticeably better.