On a night where “The Blizzard” took over the student section and legend Dave Bing entred the Ring of Honor, the Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team (14-6, 5-4) came out in full force to defeat the NC State Wolfpack (13-7, 5-4) 77-65 on Saturday night.
Following a disastrous home loss to Florida State, Syracuse took a double-digit lead towards the end of the first half and managed to hold on the rest of the way in the bounce back win in the Dome.
As always, here are the three main takeaways from the Orange’s win over NC State:
A known constant this season is that Judah Mintz can score the ball — he just came off a 28-point performance versus Florida State and he has taken the leap as the primary creator. But it’s clear this team is at its best when Mintz isn’t the lone scorer who has to shoulder most of the offense.
While he’s had his highs and lows on the offensive end this season, J.J. Starling’s career-high 26 points on 9/17 shooting (4/9 from three) proved to be the ultimate deciding factor in Saturday’s win. He looked confident and made shots from all three levels of the court. He scored the Orange’s first 10 points to keep the team alive early, then caught fire alongside with Chris Bell (13 points, 5/9 shooting, 3/6 from three) to spark a 16-2 run that saw Syracuse get out ahead and never look back.
JJ Starling brings the Loud House to its feet!— Syracuse Men’s Basketball (@Cuse_MBB) January 28, 2024
Particularly for Starling, this was the game that proves how his scoring allows Mintz (20 points, 14/20 from the foul line, 9 assists, 4 steals) to unlock more of his playmaking and gives some insurance for the Orange’s offense when Mintz happens to have an off-shooting night. The backcourt duo combined for 46 points (roughly 60% of the Orange’s total offense) in the win.
With 20 games down and 11 left to go, now’s the time for Starling to continue his hopeful breakthrough.
Coming out with urgency
The ugly 85-69 loss to Florida State left a sour taste considering Syracuse entered that game with a 10-0 record at home. This felt like a game the Orange needed to take advantage of — an NC State team that profiles as another middle of the pack ACC team with a similar record and resume to Syracuse.
While the defense slipped a bit towards the end of the second half, Syracuse came out on the aggressive end on that side. Even with the poor offensive reputation for the Wolfpack this year, holding NC State to 6/29 from the field in the first have was impressive. Syracuse never trailed by more than three points and led by as much as 21.
That urgency extended to pretty much everyone who saw minutes tonight. Starling and Bell shot the lights out of the ball, while Benny Williams (11 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks in 25 minutes) earned a sizable role in Autry’s rotation and looked like the two-way wing who can do a bit of everything when he’s on the court. Maliq Brown and Quadir Copeland performed as expected, and even Peter Carey looked solid on defense as the backup five.
Whoa Benny Williams! — Syracuse Men’s Basketball (@Cuse_MBB) January 28, 2024
Let’s hope this win can be a building block the rest of the way.
The bounce back brigade
Tell me if we’ve mentioned this on the site before — Adrian Autry regrouping the Orange after a bad loss and following that up with a major win. It’s happened countless times this season, but it’s been a calling card in his first season.
There’s been some pretty devastating lows this year particularly against ranked opponents, but the Orange have responded accordingly in pretty good fashion.
There’s still time left to build some sense of consistency — Syracuse is in the midst of a stretch where it will take on Boston College (again), Wake Forest, Louisville and Clemson. Outside of the Cardinals, the rest of those teams sit in the middle of the conference pack and in the NCAA Tournament bubble conversation. The tough part of the ACC schedule is mostly over, and a win like this should inspire some confidence with a month of conference play left to go.