The Wolfpack came out hungry and feisty, as expected. SU had to whether the early storm as well as another push in the second half, and it did with veteran plays and depth. The rotation proved to be lethal against average teams for 40 minutes, as several bench players again contributed to an Orange victory.
Test No. 1- The Early Storm
N.C. State came out shooting very well, and it wasn't who was expected to hurt the Orange from deep. Scott Wood entered the game as the second-best three-point shooter in the entire country, but C.J. Williams was the one who buried the long-range shots. However, it was because of Wood. Syracuse adjusted its 2-3 zone to account for Wood at all times, often leaving Williams open – especially on his first three successful shots from deep.
The Orange kept the pace early on with the active play of Fab Melo and Baye Moussa Keita, though the big men were screened off well while on defense. Then Dion Waiters, who is as hot as any player in the nation, checked in. With a smaller lineup, SU went to the running game to combat State's hot shooting. At its worst, The Wolfpack were up by eight points midway through the first half.
Test No. 2 – Responding on the Road
After the momentum again went towards the home team, Syracuse stormed back with a season-best 23-0 run. It started from outside as Kris Joseph and James Southerland hit three-pointers on three straight possessions. The Orange found themselves ahead 30-29 with under seven minutes to play in the half, and they put their foot on the gas for the rest of the period. During the run, Waiters had 10 of his career-high 22 points. He got into one of those grooves in which he could do little wrong offensively, hitting from deep and putting the ball on the floor with little resistance.
All was not pretty for the top team in the land in the half, as the Pack finally got going with a pair of solid possessions in which Lorenzo Brown got the ball inside on two of his 13 assists on the way to easy buckets. The rhythm carried over to the second half in a big way. State crawled all the way back with a steady diet of transition buckets as a result of the mountain of misses the Orange provided as they settled for long jumpers. Waiters, Joseph and Southerland – who were spectacular in the first half – were the main culprits. It allowed for long rebounds that led Brown down the floor for some easy assists to the likes of Williams and company.
The rally led to a tie game on multiple occasions in the second half, though N.C. State would never claim the lead.
Test No. 3 – Closing the Door
Once SU decided to stick to its guns on offense by driving to the basket, it was time to put the Wolfpack out of its misery. In order to put the game out of reach once the team stopped hoisting up not-so-good shots, coach Jim Boeheim turned to his seniors. Scoop Jardine went on a run of his own, scoring 14 of his 16 points in the final 14 minutes of the game. The fifth-year leader built his confidence with a pair of three pointers, then did his usual circus act on the way to some tough inside baskets. Joseph was on from outside in the first half, but he also went to the tin in the closing minutes. His legs are officially under him and he made the scoring look easy down the stretch – even passing up some open jumpers along the way.
Once the Orange got the lead back to double-digits, the defense helped to shut the door for good. N.C. State began to turn the ball over as SU played the passing lanes with the lead, and the margin of blunders (18 turnovers for State against eight for SU) proved to be the deciding factor. The Wolfpack had several unforced errors, which almost always results in a loss against the active Orange defense considering how the zone forces so many turnovers as it is.