With very similar records and a lot on the line for the NCAA Tournament not too far away, the NC State men’s basketball team beat Syracuse 79-74 in a thrilling battle in upstate New York Tuesday night.
The Wolfpack (16-8, 7-6 ACC) won its second road game in a row against the Orange (14-10, 7-6 ACC), beating its ACC foe on the court inside the Carrier Dome. Entering the game, Syracuse had more conference wins, and now the Pack has the advantage with its overall record, boosting it in the standings.
The first half started off with a 3 made by Syracuse. The Pack then went ahead to develop an 8-0 run to bring the score to 12-7 early in the game. However, the Orange bounced back, scoring seven straight points to bring the score to 20-18.
Redshirt senior guard C.J. Bryce sank his second 3 only to be matched by Syracuse guard Joseph Girard III before the second TV timeout. The young freshman was a problem for the Pack, and with Syracuse’s leading scorer, Elijah Hughes, forced out of the game due to an injury just a few minutes in, Girard tried his hardest to fill Hughes’ shoes, dropping a career-high 30 points.
Syracuse stayed true to head coach Jim Boeheim’s scheme, playing its traditional 2-3 zone defense, and head coach Kevin Keatts prepared for this. NC State spread out its offense, planting potential shooters in the corners. This opened up more passing lanes and allowed for 11 3-pointers. The Wolfpack shot 44% from deep, exposing the holes in the famous Syracuse defense.
The game continued to go back and forth, and the Wolfpack clung to a narrow 29-28 lead entering the third TV timeout. After the teams traded buckets the last few minutes, a free throw by Bryce gave NC State a 39-35 lead entering halftime.
The first 10 minutes of the second half showed no real lead from either team, the biggest being three points after Syracuse closed the gap with an 8-2 run over a four-minute stretch. Sophomore forward Jericole Helems went to work soon after, scoring five quick points while operating in the middle of the zone and continuing to fight hard on the glass, leading the team in rebounds with seven.
After 10 minutes, Syracuse had swung the momentum back on its side, and the wolfpack trailed 60-56 with its NCAA Tournament hopes hanging by a thread. A 3-pointer from junior guard Braxton Beverly brought the Pack back to 60-59 and gave it some quick life, but the energy was brief. The Orange answered with an 8-3 run and took a 68-62 lead with time winding down.
Redshirt junior guard Devon Daniels took over the game from there, muscling out seven consecutive points to give the Wolfpack a lead it would never relinquish. Daniels had one of his best games of the season, tying a season high with 23 points and constantly coming up with big defensive plays.
Along with Daniels’ impressive scoring, he also silenced the rowdy Syracuse crowd multiple times. Late in the first half, he finished an alley-oop from senior point guard Markell Johnson. In his seven-point streak late in the second half, Daniels rebounded a Girard miss as the crowd was at its loudest, then ran down the court and finished an easy layup to immediately silence the crowd.
NC State will finish its three-game road trip in Massachusetts against Boston College Sunday, Feb. 16. The game will tip off at 6 p.m. and will be broadcast live on the ACC Network.