The sixth-seeded Tar Heels (23-9) face third-seeded Miami on Thursday night in the quarterfinals at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Oshae Brissett scored 20 points and made five 3s for 11th-seeded Syracuse (20-13), which never got closer than nine down in the second half. The Orange will head toward NCAA Tournament Selection Sunday firmly on the bubble.
North Carolina won the last game of a quadruple-header at Barclays, but it was still a sad day for Tar Heels Nation. Woody Durham, former longtime "Voice of the Tar Heels," died early Wednesday at 76 after a lengthy illness.
The Tar Heels honored Durham, who called North Carolina games for 40 years, by wearing white warm-up shirts that had "Woody" written in black letters across the backs. Coach Roy Williams wore a black suit with a Carolina blue ribbon lapel pin. Durham's son, Wes, was courtside calling the game for Raycom Sports.
North Carolina controlled the last 10 minutes of the first half and built a 39-29 at intermission. Then the Tar Heels used a 12-4 surge to start the second half, with Williams dropping in a 3 to prompt a timeout by Syracuse, to take a 51-33 lead with 15:35 left.
North Carolina shot 44 percent against the Syracuse zone, with Pinson picking through the seams and hitting the boards and Williams doing damage in on the break.
The lead was up to 21 a minute and a half later when Williams slipped a pass to Cameron Johnson trailing in transition for a layup.
The game before North Carolina's at Barclays Center had Notre Dame overcome a 21-point, second-half deficit against Virginia Tech. There was no such comeback for Syracuse.
Syracuse: The Orange entered the day with an RPI of 36 and coach Jim Boeheim has been touting good road victories against Louisville and Miami. Using advanced metrics, which the selection committee will consider, the Orange don't stack up quite so well. They were No. 51 in KenPom ratings before playing North Carolina. And they finished 9-11 against ACC competition. Syracuse will have an uneasy wait until the field of 68 is unveiled.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels improved to 7-1 against Syracuse since the Orange joined the ACC, and stopped a two-game losing streak. By losing the last two regular-season games, North Carolina slipped out of double-bye position in the ACC standings to the sixth seed.
A team that doesn't have much proven depth will likely ask a lot from its starters to win this tournament.
Syracuse: Wait and hope.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels lost to Miami on a 40-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer in Chapel Hill on Feb. 27.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.