Quentin Hillsman ripped off his jacket during a stoppage in play, anticipating another big second half run that would decide the game.
He reminded his team what happened the last time Syracuse faced NC State, when the Wolfpack eliminated the Orange from last season's ACC Tournament with a 22-1 run in the second half.
And his message worked.
This time, No. 23/22 Syracuse rolled off 23 straight points early in the second half with a combination of improved shooting play, tenacious defense and another stellar performance by point guard Alexis Peterson. The Orange beat the Wolfpack, 66-49, in the Carrier Dome and extended its winning streak to five games.
For Hillsman, it felt pretty good to be on the other end of a one-sided second half.
"We did take pride in putting our feet on the ground and holding a stand," Hillsman said. "We talked about in one of our huddles that this was the time that it happened last year."
Peterson scored a game-high 27 points, while Briana Day anchored Syracuse's defense with 11 points, 16 rebounds and seven blocks. She came close to becoming the team's first player with a triple-double since 1984. It was, in Hillsman's words, a "big girl game" and even prompted him to make comparisons to the program's leading scorer and rebounder, Kayla Alexander.
"Briana Day was a beast down there," Hillsman said. "Anything in the paint, she went there and she got it."
Day kicked off Syracuse's second half scoring run with a contested layup in the paint. When the Orange started scoring more, it was able to set up its press and force more turnovers. But even when the Wolfpack were able to penetrate through the press, it faced a daunting combination of Day and Taylor Ford in the paint.
"If I know she has a lot of rebounds, I try to tip it to her and help her out," Ford said. "I feel like if my teammates are playing good, keep rewarding them."
Like Ford, Syracuse succeeded by playing an unselfish style of play and making the extra pass, when possible, to set up an open teammate.
At times, Peterson was able to use her threat of scoring to draw attention away from others and create mismatches. Midway through the second half, she caught a pass while standing just in front of the Syracuse bench and had a good look from just behind-the-arc. But, she opted to send a quick pass to Brianna Butler, who sunk a wide open 3-pointer. Butler even made sure to point to Peterson after the play to show her appreciation for the assist.
"We call it one more," Hillsman said on his team's ability to make the extra pass. "I thought they got Brianna Butler wide open shots. They got Taylor (Ford) wide open shots. We got (Peterson) wide open shots in the corner and in the weak side."
A minute later, the Orange capped off its scoring run with a highlight-reel play off a turnover. Cornelia Fondren stole the ball near midcourt and heaved the ball to Peterson, who was streaking down the right baseline. Peterson deked the lone Wolfpack defender nearby by appearing to drive to the hoop. Then, she found an open Ford to the left, who put in an uncontested layup.
The 23-0 run was Syracuse's biggest of the season and gave the Orange the insurance it didn't have last March in Greensboro.
Said Hillsman, "It did feel good for us to finally buckle down against them and not let them make a run to come back and beat us."