Syracuse Orange 56 - North Carolina State Wolfpack 55
C.J. Fair scored on a fast break layup with 6.5 seconds left and Rakeem Christmas compensated for a rough night by Tyler Ennis and the Syracuse Orange yet again found a way to continue their undefeated rampage. The NC State Wolfpack found themselves with a late lead, despite being a double digit underdog in their first conference trip to the Carrier Dome. In a game where neither side led by more than 5 points, a late bucket by an Syracuse Wooden contender proved to be the difference for the second time this week.
In a too familiar scenario, the Orange found themselves wrapped in a one possession battle and needed someone to step up. Rakeem Christmas decided it was his time to shine. Christmas almost finished with a triple double with 14 points and 12 rebounds, and 7 blocks, but his most important contribution might have been a steal of a Wolfpack pass with 10 seconds and a 1 point deficit, with a quick outlet to Tyler Ennis lead to a goaltending call on fastbreak layup by C.J. Fair. NC State did a lot of damage by grabbing offensive rebounds, and Rakeem grabbed big boards late in the game to avoid more easy buckets.
C.J Fair had 11 points which included the final dagger, but contributed to several bad turnovers leading to NC State fast break points, and missed his normal offensive looks. Jerami Grant provided the secondary effort 12 points and 14 big rebounds as well, as the two big men saved the day with their rebound and offensive push. Syracuse pushed back in the second half behind free throw shooting by Christmas (6-6), Grant (4-7), Ennis (3-5), and Michael Gbinije (2-2) to finish shooting 16-22 (73%). If they missed their free throws like the Arizona Wildcats did yesterday, the upset was imminent.
*Running on Fumes*
Tyler Ennis played his most immature game of the season, trying his best to lose behind a bad foul on a three pointer with 2 minutes remaining, and an offensive foul on a deciding possession, down one point with 16 seconds left. He finished with 9 points and 5 rebounds, but adding 4 turnovers and 4 fouls. Trevor Cooney (8 pts, 2-6 from 3pt) hit a few shots in the first half, but disappeared in the second half as he was well guarded. Cooney did add a vicious fast break lay-up in the first half, but it wasn't able to spark a run.
The zone defense was as effective as usual, holding another opponent to under 60 points. The problem with Syracuse was purely poor shooting, putting in 35% of their shots, including lines of 3-10 by Ennis and Cooney and 5-16 by CJ. Christmas was the only reliable offensive weapon tonight, and the Orange needed every bit of it.
North Carolina State had a few reliable attacks on offensive, including a left handed driving baby jumper by Kyle Washington, with 14 points and 10 rebounds, and T.J. Warren attacking the basket low, with 23 points on 11-22 shooting. Ralston Turner hit 3 shots from deep and got fouled twice by Ennis on three point attempts. The three combined for 50 of the Wolfpack's 55 points.
The Refs may have called a couple wrong on both directions, they got the big ones right. With 10 seconds left and the Wolfpack with the ball after an Ennis offensive foul, they threw a home run and Trevor Cooney had to grab TJ Warren immediately, and Warren made the lay-up. The ref waved off the basket and called a non-shooting foul, forcing the Wolfpack to inbound with no timeouts, leading the game winning sequence. 11 out of 10 refs would have called the continuation basket, putting NC State up 3 with a foul shot. It was the right call to Orange fans as they caught the final lucky break.
SU moves to 25-0, and look to extend the streak against their easiest game in the ACC on paper, basement dweller Boston College playing at home in the Dome on Wednesday night. However, no game has been easy so far, and BC gave them fits in the previous matchup with an arsenal of deep, lucky three point shooting.
Syracuse's 2014 motto: "Phew". Until the next thrill ride, LET'S! GO! S! U!