Billy Celuck called it the worst Syracuse offensive performance he'd seen in five seasons. Preston Shumpert said his teammates didn't truly believe they could come back. Kueth Duany chose a sad day at the office. And Bernie Fine thought embarrassing was the best description.
The wording itself was different, but every person associated with the Syracuse basketball team pointed to the same answer – the Orangemen simply fell apart. It came during Fine's second game in charge, where North Carolina State bamboozled the Orangemen during an 82-68 victory in front of 20,150 fans in the Carrier Dome.
"I'm embarrassed, and I'll take the blame for this," Fine said. "Because Coach Boeheim doesn't teach them to play basketball like this, and that's not a Syracuse team the way we played. We did not do a good job.
"I wouldn't be upset if we came and played Syracuse basketball and lost the game. That's not what we did."
The loss marked the first time Syracuse (9-1) lost to an unranked, non-conference opponent since succumbing, 61-55, to Ohio in 1998.
It played out in grand fashion, one bumbling mistake leading to the next. All said, the Orangemen resulted to one-on-one basketball, allowed the Wolfpack to shoot 53.8 percent from the field, turned the ball over 17 times and lost the rebounding battle, 34-30.
"You can't attribute that to nothing," backup center Billy Celuck said. "It was the first time we were losing in a while, down to a good team, we just got impatient. Everybody's trying to be a hero. That's a good thing and a bad thing. Can't win with one guy, you've got to win with the team."
As Fine moved through his postgame press conference, he repeated the same theme over and over again – Syracuse did not play like itself, turning to one-on-one basketball, resulting in the most impatient of offenses.
The Orangemen were down 11 points at North Carolina State last season, and they used a patient offense and frenzied press to steal a one-point victory. This time around, every time Syracuse mounted a comeback to close the gap, the Orangemen acted like they were waiting to get in at the doctor's office and they needed to get that shot immediately.
"Last year, we actually wanted to play, we fed off each other," Celuck said. "This year, it just seems like we didn't really want to step up and play our game."
NC State pulled ahead early with a 13-3 run to take a 16-5 lead. A frenzied pace continued until Syracuse pulled to within two at halftime, trailing 35-33.
A Preston Shumpert bank shot with 13:02 left in the second half again brought Syracuse back within two, trailing 48-46, and it also brought back memories of last season. Impatience then took over, and the Orangemen didn't score for nearly four minutes.
"I don't think they really, really truly believed that we could come back," Shumpert said. "That's probably the main factor."
Shumpert led Syracuse in scoring with a game-high 29 points. Fine indicated that Shumpert was being held by the NC State defense, but both Fine and Shumpert said he forced some of his 20 shots. The biggest culprit, though, was junior shooting guard DeShaun Williams, who in his second game back from suspension, tossed up 10 bricks compared to six makes and turned the ball over five times. The effort was reminiscent of Williams' time on the Newark, N.J., playgrounds a few years ago, Fine said.
"There's no question about it," Fine said. "DeShaun thought he was in the playground instead of playing for Syracuse. He didn't get us in our offense. He tried to go one-on-one too many times. He took some bad shots, and we went over this a few times. We're trying to penetrate and kick, and that's what they did. Instead, we're dribbling into the meat of their defense and throwing up horrible shots. Then when we throw up a bad shot, we're not getting the rebound."
About the only player that did rebound for SU was Jeremy McNeil, who pulled down a career-high 13 boards. Syracuse's next leading rebounder was Williams, with four.
Admittedly, SU guard Kueth Duany had an off night. During Syracuse's Preseason NIT Tournament run, Duany emerged as a solid third-scoring option and rebounder. On Saturday, he played his worst game this season, going 0 for 2 from the field, grabbing only three rebounds and posting three turnovers.
"It's a sad day at the office, that's all I can say really," Duany said. "I just didn't play well."
The rest of the Orangemen can say the same, to some degree. And now they have eight days off to think about the humiliating loss before they travel to Georgia Tech on Dec. 16. Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim, who had successful prostate surgery, is expected to return for practice and will coach the Georgia Tech game, where the Orangemen can only hope to return to "Syracuse basketball" form.
"I wish we could play tomorrow and start winning games," McNeil said. "Nobody likes to lose and then sit out. We just want to keep playing and playing and playing."