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Syracuse 77, NC State 68: Orange crush Wolfpack in the paint

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See? The paint is your friend, Syracuse.

NCAA Basketball: N.C. State at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange desperately needed a bounce-back win after a tough game against Clemson last Saturday. The Orange returned to a relentless interior attack and scored with efficiency in the second half to gain a confidence-boosting win over the NC State Wolfpack 77-68.

There were already questions for the Orange in the pregame as both Bourama Sidibe and Kadary Richmond were questionable to play. Sidibe was still dealing with knee soreness from his meniscus injury and Richmond was dealing with a non-COVID related illness. With Syracuse’s winning game plan against NC State in their last matchup being a focused attack at the rim, the Orange couldn’t afford to not have both available.

Early on the teams traded buckets with familiar patterns emerging. The Orange were scoring with great efficiency inside the paint with only the handful of jump shots falling at a considerably lower rate. Richmond would eventually come into the game and helped with his passing ability to re-tool the offensive attack to the interior to pick up the scoring.

On the flip side, the Orange struggled to contain the Wolfpack on offense with NC State getting a second crack at the zone this season. Entry passes to Jericole Hellems continued to carve up the Orange as Syracuse’s guards failed to stop the ball moving around the halfcourt with much frequency. The freedom of ball movement allowed the Wolfpack to shoot 55% from the floor in the first half.

Another familiar trend that reappeared from the Clemson game was Syracuse’s inability to take advantage of turnovers. With 3:19 left in the 1st, NC State had turned the ball over nine times but Syracuse had only grabbed four points. The Orange continued with their bad tendency to rush shots while in transition, firing way too early in the shot clock.

Richmond must’ve realized that the Orange weren’t getting anything off their turnovers as he turned up his defensive pressure to swing some momentum back towards the Orange. His anticipation at the top of the zone is unrivaled on this season’s Syracuse team as his personal 6-0 run allowed Syracuse to steal some late fire in the first half. Three steals stifled some of the good attempts that the Wolfpack had to cut into the slim Orange lead heading into the half.

After a slow start to the second half, both offenses exploded as the scoring drastically ramped up. Both teams started to see threes fall and the game started to get scrappy. There were more combined free throws over the first eight minutes of the second half than the entire first half.

As the scoring opened up, Buddy Boeheim and Quincy Guerrier started to put their mark on the scoresheet. Boeheim continued his streaky shooting as he started to get hot from range. That in turn opened opportunities for Guerrier to work at the rim.

The offenses showed no signs of slowing down as both teams continued to score at will. Syracuse continued to attack the rim with efficiency while NC State did most of its work at the foul line. However, the Orange started to pull away on the boards with Syracuse grabbing 22 rebounds to NC State’s 11 in the second half. In a rare occurrence, the offensive rebounds favored Syracuse with 11 offensive Orange boards to seven defensive Wolfpack boards in the second half.

Syracuse’s offensive explosion can be attributed to the interior attack. It’s no secret that the Orange does their best work inside the arc. Even though the Orange were 5-of-9 from deep in the second half, 28 Orange points in the paint kept Syracuse’s momentum snowballing. That in large part led Syracuse’s 48.4% field goal shooting in the second half.

Quietly, Alan Griffin exploded offensively with the Orange with his high-volume shooting style. He led Syracuse with 22 points on 9-of-17 shooting. Boeheim and Guerrier joined him as double-digit scorers with 16 and 14 points respectively. Guerrier was the big recipient of the offensive rebound success with five offensive boards on the night, most of them leading to second-chance points.

While this win doesn’t greatly improve Syracuse’s chances to make the NCAA tournament, it is nonetheless a necessary win to keep the Orange in the conversation. The interior wins that Syracuse secured this game should also boost confidence for the rest of its ACC schedule.