Syracuse Beats North Carolina State – Losing Isn’t an Option

C.J. Fair

Things are becoming more and more difficult for Syracuse as they try to hang on to their impressive undefeated record. Defense and some foolish mistakes by the North Carolina State players in the final seconds helped the Orange get away with another win, coming away with the 56-55 win to remain undefeated through 25 games this season.

Down by a point with less than 15 seconds left in the game, it looked like Syracuse have finally run out of late-game mojo. The usual hero, Tyler Ennis, was called for an offensive foul on the previous possession in what seemed like the final opportunity. But the defense, with a second consecutive successful trap, exposed just how unprepared the Wolfpack players were for this kind of finish. Rakeem Christmas stole the ball and C.J. Fair, with 6.7 seconds left, hit the game winning shot with a layup that bounced on the rim a couple of times.

In front of 31,752 fans, Syracuse got the benefit of the doubt inside the Carrier Dome and not for the first time this season. It seemed like T.J. Warren hit a shot that might have sealed the game before the turnover possession while being fouled by Trevor Cooney in the back, but the refs waived the basket and ordered an inbound pass which resulted in Syracuse getting their winning possession. Home court in front of this kind of capacity crowd means more than influence on the team, but on officials as well.

That should have counted. That was a made basket to put us up three with T.J. going to the line to go up four. That changed things.

But Syracuse generally handle close games very well, coming off a crazy 2-point win over Pittsburgh. When they’re trailing or tied  in the final minute of the 2nd half and overtime this season, the Orange have outscored their opponents 17-0. They’re 4-of-5 from the field in these situations, while their opponents are o-of-4. They’re now the first team to win consecutive games by 2 points or fewer since the ’81-82 North Carolina, a team that ended up winning the national championship.

Syracuse are now 25-0, 12-0 in the ACC, 7 wins shy of the best start in history by an ACC team. They’r doing it with one of the worst offenses in the nation in terms of pace (60.7 possessions per game), but they’re very efficient, especially when it matters the most. Rakeem Christmas led the team with 14 points and 12 rebounds, while Jeremri Grant with 12 points and C.J. Fair with 11 stood out on a rough shooting night, that included only 3-of-10 from the field for Ennis.

The Wolfpack shot slighty better from the field (only 39.2%) but turned the ball over one time more and were awful from the line (7-of-14). T.J. Warren scored 23 points and got a lot of help from Kyle Washington with 14, but the rest of the team was very poor whenever they had the ball.

Obviously, when you have a year like they’re having, when you’re undefeated you’re going to have some close ones, some not-so-close ones. We just tried to prepare for them as best we could and I thought our guys did a great job.

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