Syracuse, down nine at half, rallied on Sunday to claim a 76-73 win over NC State. Here are the main takeaways from the win:
Syracuse rallies from a huge deficit
NC State lost its top two players prior to Sunday’s game, with star guard and leading scorer Devon Daniels tearing an ACL that will sideline him for the rest of the year, and forward DJ Funderbunk not playing due to “university policies.”
The Wolfpack was nonplussed with the losses in the first half. NCST went on a 13-2 run that led to 47 first half points and a nine point lead at halftime.
But the Orange made some key adjustments on defense, and it paid huge dividends. NC State went from shooting 56.7 percent in the first half to 32.3 percent in the second. The Wolfpack were 6-15 from downtown in the first half, and 0-8 after intermission, scoring 26 points the final 20 minutes.
With NC State cool coming out of halftime, Syracuse took full advantage. The Orange shot 47 percent in the second half, led by Kadary Richmond and Buddy Boeheim. Buddy Boeheim shrugged off a recent slum with 4-8 shooting from downtown for 17 points, while Richmond scored 14 points in 16 minutes.
So, it was not a surprise when Richmond hit a jumper to put the Orange up 67-65, and Buddy Boeheim followed with a 3-pointer to make it a five point game with 4:24 to go.
Still, the Orange made some blunders down the stretch that allowed NCST to remain close.
Quincy Guerrier fouled Thomas Allen on the 3-point land with six seconds left, and Allen hit three free throws to pull the Wolfpack to within 74-73. But Alan Griffin responded with a pair of free throws, and a last second 3 from Cam Hayes over Marek Dolezaj went off the side of the backboard and harmlessly fell to the floor to give the Orange their fourth ACC win.
Syracuse can be two different teams defensively
This marked the first time this year that Syracuse’s defense played to radical extremes, as the Orange gave up 47 points in the first half and just 26 points in the second.
Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said postgame that at halftime, SU committed to tightening up on the perimeter defense, and it showed.
The Orange was also more disciplined offensively in the second half. NCST scored 11 points off turnovers in the opening half, but just one point after intermission. The Orange also limited the Pack to four fast break points after the first half compared to 10 before.
“That was as bad of defense as we could play in the first half,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “We pressured them more in the second. Our defense was better and we took care of the ball better.”
Kadary Richmond continues to provide different options at guard
Richmond once again made a strong statement to see additional minutes in Jim Boeheim’s rotation, with 14 points on 6-7 shooting in 16 minutes. It’s no coincidence that Syracuse outscored NC State by 12 points in the second half with Richmond playing the majority of minutes at point guard.
But Jim Boeheim once again reiterated in postgame that all three guards will continue to be used, and not to expect any lineup changes anytime soon.
Still, Richmond has a compelling case for more playing time. Joe Girard III was ineffective again, scoring just 5 points on 2-10 shooting in 25 minutes, and is shooting just 35.0 percent from the field this season.
Meanwhile, the third guard, Buddy Boeheim, played all 40 minutes.
Marek Dolezaj truly deserves his pizza
When Marek Dolezaj got his tooth knocked out against Georgetown, the Slovakian forward joked he was upset because he would have to take a break from eating his favorite food, pizza.
By now his tooth should be better and he should be back to eating pizza, and he deserves it more than anyone. Bourama Sidibe has not played since SU’s season opener with a knee injury, and Dolezaj, at 6’10’’ and 201 pounds has been the starting center ever since.
Jim Boeheim said postgame that Sidibe may be available for this week’s matchup against No. 25 Louisville, which would allow Dolezaj to move to his normal position at power forward.
The timing comes as SU has struggled to develop its young underclassmen reserve centers Jesse Edwards, Frank Anselem and John Bol Ajak. Edwards played just 2 minutes against NC State, and was given the quick hook.
He did not hide his displeasure about Edwards in postgame.
“I don’t care if he ever scores but he has to do something on the defensive end,” Jim Boeheim said. “If you let a 6’2” guard finish over you when you are 7 foot, you just can’t play.”
So, Dolezaj, who played with some foul trouble (3), once again played extended minutes, finishing with 11 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, and 4 steals in 38 minutes.