The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team fell to NC State by a final score of 79-74 on Tuesday night. The loss came after Syracuse’s leading scorer Elijah Hughes went down with an injury in the beginning of the game.
Syracuse put forth a spirited effort, including a boost from freshmen Joe Girard, Quincy Guerrier and extended run for Jesse Edwards — but ultimately the Orange struggled to execute down the stretch. NC State picked up a vital quadrant one win at the Carrier Dome and kept its NCAA Tournament hopes alive while squandering Syracuse’s at the same time.
With that, here are our takeaways from Tuesday night’s game.
Injury for Elijah Hughes
It was evident something was awry when junior forward Elijah Hughes trotted to the Syracuse bench moments after tip. Hughes — fifth in the country in minutes per game (38.2) — was greeted on the sideline with a bag of ice, which he applied to his inner thigh/groin area. Shortly thereafter he put on his warm-ups indicating that he would not return against NC State.
At the half, Jim Boeheim told Matt Park that Hughes pulled something in warmups. He would not return for the rest of the game.
Boeheim: “We just found out at the when we started the game that Elijah couldn’t play. He pulled something in warmups. They’re battling hard, really doing a great job. We’ve got to keep battling, keep going.” #OrangeNation— Matt Park (@MattPark1) February 12, 2020
No word or timeline just yet on a return for Hughes, but if he’s not able to go against Florida State on Saturday or against Louisville next Wednesday, Syracuse is in serious trouble.
Freshmen G’s step up, but not enough
In Hughes’s absence, Syracuse showed just how important its leading scorer is to this team. Freshmen Joe Girard and Quincy Guerrier both poured in career-highs in points, but it still wasn’t enough to get a victory at home.
Girard broke out of his slump by dropping 30 against NC State (although just 1-10 from deep). Guerrier avoided foul trouble and scored 16 points to go along with 10 rebounds. Despite the spirited play from Syracuse’s freshmen, the Orange didn’t make the plays necessary to win down the stretch. A healthy Hughes might’ve made the difference.
NCAA Tournament hopes on life support
Syracuse came into the night ranked No. 65 in NET and in need of a résumé boosting win or two. The loss to NC State puts Syracuse’s NCAA Tournament discussion completely out of the picture. With a 2-4 quadrant one record and 2-5 quadrant two record, Syracuse is off the bubble.
It’s hard to envision a path toward the tournament with Syracuse’s remaining regular season schedule. Barring a pair of wins at Florida State and Louisville, Syracuse is going to need an ACC Tournament run to make the field of 68 come March. But that might be too tall of an order for the Orange this year.