Some wins are pretty. Saturday night’s 56-55 win by Syracuse over North Carolina State was not one of them. The top-ranked Orange (25-0, 12-0 ACC) barely shot 35 percent from the field in the game, but their last shot of the game fell through the net, giving them the one-point win at the Carrier Dome.
The game, which had originally been slated for a 3:00pm tip-off, was pushed back four hours after the Wolfpack (16-9, 6-6) had travel delays and remained in North Carolina on Friday night. The squad eventually landed in Syracuse just before the original game time.
The game was closely contested all night, as the two teams combined for 18 lead changes and 13 ties. The stats were also similar for both, as the biggest difference was that the Orange made 16 free throws (on 22 tries) compared to the Wolfpack making just 7-of-14 at the line.
Neither team could grab the momentum early in the first half, as it took nearly eight minutes for NC State to become the first team to score twice in a row. That lay-up also gave them their first lead of the night at 12-11. Shortly after, SU had their first consecutive scores of the game, the latter boosting them to a 17-15 lead with just under 8:30 on the clock.
The Wolfpack quickly retook the lead, then eventually scored on three straight possessions to take a 26-22 lead and force a Syracuse timeout. The break allowed the Orange regain their composure and notch a couple scores to send the game to halftime at 26-26.
NC State scored first after halftime, and eventually made it a brief 6-2 run in their favor to take a four-point lead. Syracuse would return the favor and a Rakeem Christmas dunk knotted the score once again, this time at 34.
The Wolfpack would again take the lead and again the Orange came back. This time, shortly after the midpoint of the second half, Jerami Grant’s jump shot would put SU in front, 40-39. The two teams alternated markers until a three-point play and a three-point field goal gave the visitors their greatest lead of the night at 50-45 with under 6:30 left on the clock.
The Orange scored six straight points, as Christmas wrapped four free throws around a Tyler Ennis drive, the final foul shot putting them on top, 51-50. NC State regained the lead on a jump shot, but Grant had two trips of one successful free throw each that again put Syracuse in front by a point.
With just over a minute left, Ennis had a freshman moment, fouling State’s Ralston Turner on a three-point shot. The field goal was no good, but all three of Turner’s free throws were and again the Wolfpack held the lead, this time at 55-53.
C.J. Fair drew a foul on the next trip down for SU, but only made one shot from the line, leaving NC State in the lead. After the Orange forced an NC State turnover, Ennis was whistled for a charge, giving the ball right back.
The Orange defense forced another turnover and this time made it pay off, as Fair put in a lay-up that gave Syracuse a 56-55 lead. The Wolfpack’s leading scorer, T.J. Warren, was able to get a shot off, but it missed the mark, allowing Syracuse to hold on for the win.
Rakeem Christmas turned in a career-best game for SU, finishing with 14 points, a dozen rebounds, and seven blocked shots. Jerami Grant also had a double-double, finishing with 12 points and a personal high 14 boards. C. J. Fair chipped in with 11 points and Tyler Ennis added nine.
T.J. Warren hit his scoring average for NC State, finishing with 23 points to top all players. Kyle Washington had a double-double for the ‘Pack, scoring 14 points to go with his ten rebounds. Ralston Turner chipped in 13 points.
Wednesday night, Syracuse will look to extend their perfect record when they host Boston College. The Eagles (6-18, 2-9), who face Notre Dame on Sunday evening, are in a tailspin, having lost four in a row and seven of their last eight overall.
The Orange are also looking to complete a season sweep of BC, as they knocked them off on the road on January 13th, 69-59. SU, who was led by Trevor Cooney’s 21 points in the game, used a run 14 straight points in the second half to take the lead and held on from there.
ESPN2 will televise the game, which will get underway at 7:00pm Eastern. The game will also be available online at ESPN3.com or through the WatchESPN app.