Tuesday night, Syracuse fought back in the second half of a back-and-forth game, eventually taking the lead for good with 1:23 remaining and holding on for an 81-76 win over Wake Forest at the Carrier Dome. The teams traded the lead 14 times and were tied on a dozen other occasions, but the Orange (12-9, 4-4) made 7-of-8 foul shots in the final 15 seconds to pull out the win.
The Demon Deacons (12-8, 3-5) led by as many as eight points in the second half, but could not hold off SU, who posted a pair of runs, one to tie the score and the other to get back the lead. The game was also mostly statistically even across the board, even down to both teams shooting poorly in the first half and getting better after the break.
Syracuse got off to a strong start, getting a pair of inside scores and a three-pointer from Andrew White III to grab a quick 7-2 lead. Wake Forest responded with eight straight points to trigger a 13-3 run to take a five-point lead of their own at 15-10 with a little over seven minutes elapsed.
The two teams alternated scores until White III made a steal and fed Tyus Battle for a transition dunk, then Battle added a foul shot on the next SU possession. White III then connected on a stepback jumper from the left baseline. The five straight Orange points put them back on top, 21-20.
The lead was passed back and forth over the late minutes of the half until the Demon Deacons scored on their last pair of possessions to take a 32-29 lead at halftime.
SU opened the second half with another mini-run of five straight points. Taurean Thompson hit one of two foul shots, then finished a lob pass with a lay-up. John Gillon followed with a drive down the left side of the key that ended with a lay-up falling into the basket for a 34-32 lead.
Once again, the two teams passed the lead back and forth a couple times, but Wake gradually gained control and eventually used a 9-3 run to stretch their lead to eight points at 55-47 just before the midpoint of the half.
Syracuse responded with their best run of the game. Tyler Lydon started things with a turnaround jumper from the left elbow, then Gillon drilled a triple off the left wing. Thompson powered into the lane and finished a bank shot, then Lydon connected from deep three-point range. The 10-2 Orange streak knotted the score at 57 a side.
Wake Forest responded with a pair of two point leads, but SU once again rose to the challenge, this time with eight straight points. Thompson started the stretch with a lay-up to tie the game, then Battle converted a reverse lay-up in fast break while being fouled. Battle’s free throw was good and Thompson added a three-point-play of his own, giving Syracuse a 67-61 lead.
The Deacons came right back, rolling up seven straight points for a one-point lead with 2:33 remaining.
Gillon tied the game with a free throw, then White III capped some solid ball movement with a swished three-pointer from the right break. Wake responded with a jumper, but Lydon swished another long three for a 74-70 lead with under 30 seconds to play.
The Demon Deacons notched a three of their own, then started sending Orange players to the foul line. Lydon started things with a pair, then SU coach Jim Boeheim opted to have his players to foul to protect their three-point lead.
Wake answered with a pair of foul shots to get within one, then sent White III to the stripe, where he converted both to put Syracuse on top, 78-75 with 8.8 seconds on the clock.
The Deacons again went to the line, but only got the first of two shots. Thompson cleared the glass and got fouled with 7.6 seconds remaining. The freshman delivered on both attempts to make it 80-76.
As Wake Forest brought the ball up, Gillon poked it free and batted the ball to Battle, who was fouled with six-tenths of a second remaining. Battle added one free throw, icing the Orange the 81-76 win.
Andrew White III led all scorers with 27 points, including knocking down five three-pointers and all ten of his foul shots. Taurean Thompson had a hot hand in the second half, rolling up 16 of his 18 points after the break. Tyler Lydon fell just shy of his third consecutive double-double, racking up 15 points and nine boards.
John Collins paced Wake Forest with 23 points and a dozen rebounds. Bryant Crawford added 13 points while Brandon Childress came off the bench to chip in with ten.
Syracuse will hit the Carrier Dome hardwood again on Saturday when they face #6 Florida State. The Seminoles (18-2, 6-1) are in a tie for first place in the ACC and will face Georgia Tech on Wednesday night prior to their trip north.
Shooting guard Dwayne Bacon is FSU’s leader, averaging 17.4 points per game. Jonathan Isaac has posted three straight double-doubles and averages 13.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game while shooting 54 percent from the field.
ESPN2 will broadcast the game, which tips off at noon Eastern on Saturday. The game will also be available online at ESPN3.com.