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Syracuse men’s basketball: Orange make statement with dominant win over NC State

A bounceback and then some to keep pace in the ACC

NCAA Basketball: N.C. State at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — It was a banner night all-around for the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team (14-6, 5-4 Atlantic Coast Conference), who put a 77-65 drubbing to NC State (13-7, 5-4 ACC) on Dave Bing “Ring of Honor” night. J.J. Starling led the way with 26 points for the Orange, while Chris Bell and Judah Mintz also finished in double figures.

No game was bigger for SU up until this point. After a tough loss to Florida State at home earlier in the week, another defeat would have severely threatened Syracuse’s chances of making the NCAA Tournament. But the Orange controlled the Wolfpack for 40 minutes, making last Tuesday’s contest a mere afterthought.

Syracuse caught a break prior to tip-off. NC State’s second-leading scorer, DJ Burns Jr., wasn’t in the starting lineup for the first time all year. He ended up sitting for the first six minutes.

Both squads got off to a sluggish start in the game’s first minute. Judah Mintz and J.J. Starling combined for three steals on the Wolfpack’s first three possessions. After missing their first three offensive shots, Starling drove down the lane and got the Orange on the board with a layup (tying him with Chris Bell for first place on the first-half “Clap-and-Sit” tracker).

Then, the three-pointers began to rain down for each team. Starling splashed two in less than a minute, but NC State’s Mohamed Diarra countered by knocking down a contested triple from the corner.

The Baldwinsville native worked inside and converted another layup after the first media timeout, giving him SU’s first 10 points and his team a two-point lead through five minutes.

Despite only having one foul, head coach Adrian Autry opted to sub out Maliq Brown for the likes of Peter Carey with 12:00 to go in the first half. It looked like a pretty lopsided matchup on paper, but the 205-pound Carey held his own against the 275-pound Burns twice in the paint. Bell knocked down his first shot, a right-wing triple, in transition to knot the game up 18-18.

Another three by the sophomore put the Orange up three, and then a nasty crossover and contested jumper by Starling on their next offensive possession kept the momentum flowing. The Dome erupted after another Bell triple, his third of the first half, forcing NC State to call a timeout with Syracuse up eight.

The stoppage in action did little to cool off Bell. Starling deflected a Wolfpack pass on their possession out of the break, and his sophomore counterpart scooped up the ball. Bell finished on the fastbreak for a windmill slam, capping off a 13-0 run for the Orange.

From there, it was smooth sailing to the half. SU’s offense lined the perimeter, forcing Burns to vacate his low-block position. Mintz took advantage of multiple dribble drives with the big man out of the lane. He scored SU’s final seven first-half points, all either off layups or free throws, propelling the Orange to a 15-point lead at halftime.

Usually, a team’s momentum dies down during the long, 20-minute halftime period. That was far from the case tonight, as Syracuse legend Dave Bing entered the school’s Ring of Honor. Bing took the court with his family, friends, and former coach Jim Boeheim, thanking the SU faithful for their support. He becomes the eighth man to join Syracuse’s elusive club, which includes Boeheim, Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, Floyd Little, Ben Schwartzwalder, Roy Simmons Jr., and Pearl Washington.

The current Orangemen kept their foot on the gas when play resumed. Mintz made two more free throws on a drive 26 seconds in, and a tough jumper by Bell extended SU’s lead to 17.

NC State did itself no favors down big, making just six shots while turning the ball over five times over the second half’s first 10 minutes. Benny Williams kept the Orange in front with six quick points, two of which came when he darted to the hoop from the baseline, slamming down a perfect pass by teammate Quadir Copeland.

Buckets by LJ Thomas and Casey Morsell got the Wolfpack within 11 with five minutes left, but it was too little too late. Starling knocked down his fourth three-pointer of the game to stop any momentum, cementing the win for the ‘Cuse.

Next up is a road tilt against Boston College on Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m.