Syracuse overcomes lackluster first half to edge NC State

Jan 31, 2021; Syracuse, New York, USA; Syracuse Orange forward Kadary Richmond (3) takes the ball to the basket against the North Carolina State Wolfpack in the first half at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday evening, Syracuse had one of their worst defensive halves of the season to start their contest against North Carolina State. Fortunately for the Orange (10-5, 4-4 ACC), the second half was one of their best defensive halves of the season, allowing them to pull out a 76-73 home win over the Wolfpack (7-6, 3-5).

After allowing their guests to shoot 56.7 percent from the floor in the first half, including 40 percent from beyond the arc, SU bounced back after the break, permitting the ‘Pack to make just 32.3 percent of their field goal attempts, including a goose egg on eight three-point shots. N.C. State mustered just 26 points in the second half, allowing Syracuse to come back from an 11-point first half deficit.

The Orange got in that large hole by giving up lots of easy looks. The Wolfpack got plenty of open shots both inside and out, piling up 14 assists on their 17 first half baskets. However, their defense was nearly as porous and the teams traded the lead several times in the opening dozen minutes.

Buddy Boeheim grabbed the lead for SU with just under eight minutes to go in the opening half with a three-pointer from above the right break, but they mustered only one field goal in the next five-and-a-half minutes. That cold offensive stretch enabled the ‘Pack to rip off nine straight points as part of a 13-2 run that gave them a double-digit lead at 38-28 with a little over three minutes before halftime.

Kadary Richmond kept Syracuse in the game over the rest of the half, scoring eight points and setting up a Marek Dolezaj push shot from the left baseline. The freshman guard’s double clutch shot in the final seconds before the horn pulled the Orange within 47-38 at halftime.

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The two squads traded markers in the first three minutes after returning to the court, but SU then posted their best stretch of play, outscoring the Wolfpack over the next seven minutes by a 16-5 margin to take their first lead of the second half at 58-56.

Boeheim and Alan Griffin each tallied five points in the run while Quincy Guerrier bookended the streak. The sophomore forward slipped a pass to Dolezaj to start things off and closed the span with a score on the block to tie the score, then snuck behind the defense for a lay-up to put Syracuse in front just before the midpoint of the second session.

The two teams handed the lead back and forth for the next several minutes until a Boeheim three put the Orange up by a deuce and N.C. State tied the game with a bucket. Richmond then scored on a push shot in the paint and Griffin set up another three by Boeheim. The back-to-back tallies gave SU a 70-65 lead with a little over four minutes to play.

North Carolina State had the next two baskets, slicing the margin to a single point. Richmond answered with a spin move for a pretty lefthanded finish and a 72-69 lead with under 80 seconds remaining.

Each team failed to score on their next possession, but the Wolfpack then got one foul shot on the board to get within two points. The guests then committed five fouls on the ensuing Syracuse possession, eventually sending Dolezaj to the line with 17.7 seconds left. Dolezaj connected on both ends of the opportunity, building the lead to four.

Guerrier then fouled out by running into Thomas Allen on his follow through in the corner, granting him three free throws. Allen made them all, making it a 74-73 game with 6.1 seconds to play.

After a time out, the Orange were able to inbound to Griffin, who was fouled and made both attempts, extending the lead to three. The ‘Pack hustled downcourt, but a last second three struck the side of the backboard, preserving the win for SU.

Alan Griffin led the way for Syracuse on both ends of the court, leading the team with 19 points, four steals, and three blocked shots. Buddy Boeheim made four three pointers for the bulk of his 17 points while Kadary Richmond came off the bench to pour in 14 points in 16 minutes of play. Marek Dolezaj stuffed the scoresheet with 11 points, eight rebounds, a game-high six assists, and four steals while Quincy Guerrier turned in a ten-point, ten-rebound effort before fouling out.

Jericole Hellems led all scorers with 24 points in the game, missing a double-double by a single rebound. Manny Bates dominated inside for the Wolfpack, making 7-of-9 shots as he piled up 17 points, 14 rebounds, and four blocks. Braxton Beverly hit three triples for most of his 11 points and Dereon Seabron chipped in with nine points, but the duo combined for just four points in the second half.

Wednesday night, SU returns to action when #25 Louisville pays them a visit. The Cardinals (10-4, 5-3) have dropped three of their last four games and will host Georgia Tech in a Monday afternoon game prior to the contest in Syracuse.

Carlik Jones does a little bit of everything for Louisville, topping the team with 17.8 points and 4.6 assists per game while also grabbing 5.9 rebounds per outing. David Johnson is second among the Cards in scoring at 12.4 points per contest and has made a team-leading 23 three-pointers on the season at a 40.4 percent clip.

The Orange and Cardinals will tip off at 7:00pm Eastern Wednesday with the ACC Network handling television responsibilities.

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About Jim Stechschulte 894 Articles
A 1996 graduate of Syracuse University, Jim has reported on Syracuse sports for the Syracuse University Alumni Club of Southern California on nearly a decade. He has also written a fantasy basketball column published by He currently resides in Syracuse.