The No. 1 Syracuse Orange (25-0, 12-0 ACC) were able to preserve their unblemished record after C.J. Fair's layup with seven seconds to go gave them a 56-55 win over the NC State Wolfpack (16-9, 6-6 ACC) Saturday in the Carrier Dome.
The Orange are the second team to start 25-0 this season—No. 4 Wichita State being the other—making this is just the second time in 30 years that two teams in the same season have reached the mark, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Syracuse wins. Via @EliasSports: 2nd time in past 30 seasons 2 teams start 25-0 in same season (2003-04 - St. Joseph's & Stanford).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 16, 2014
The ACC Digital Network captured the final, frantic sequence of events near the end of the game. Rakeem Christmas stole the inbound pass. He passed to Tyler Ennis, who kicked it ahead to Fair for the winner.
There was some controversy leading to that layup.
T.J. Warren was fouled by Trevor Cooney. Warren went on to lay the ball in after getting fouled, which could've meant an and-1 opportunity and a three-point lead. However, the refs called the foul on the floor, which led to the fateful inbounds play that lost the game for the Wolfpack.
After all was said and done, NC State head coach Mark Gottfried remained adamant that Warren's bucket should have counted, per Joe Giglio of the News Observer:
NC State coach Mark Gottfried on the Trevor Cooney foul on TJ Warren layup with 13.6 seconds left: "That should have counted."— Joe Giglio (@jwgiglio) February 16, 2014
This win follows Syracuse's victory over No. 25 Pittsburgh earlier in the week in which Ennis hit a 35-footer at the buzzer to win 58-56. Two weeks ago, the Orange needed double overtime to take down the then-No. 17 Duke Blue Devils.
As ESPN's Max Bretos notes, it's great to have a team that knows how to win late, but having it happen too many times can be a worrying sign:
If I was a Syracuse fan,I would be worried. Keep winning at the death. Don't want it to go other way, at wrong time. If you know what I mean— Max Bretos (@mbretosESPN) February 16, 2014
After the game, head coach Jim Boeheim admitted that the chances of his team winning were minute before Christmas got the steal that changed the game, per Syracuse Basketball:
Boeheim: "We had little or no chance. We got the trap that we wanted and Rak got the steal. This team finds a way." #OrangeNation— Syracuse Basketball (@syracusebball) February 16, 2014
Christmas led the Orange in scoring, finishing with 14 points. He was one of two Syracuse players to record a double-double, nabbing 12 boards as well. Jerami Grant had the inverse of Christmas, with 12 points and 14 rebounds:
Prior to his game-winning layup, Fair had a disappointing game. Although he certainly redeemed himself, he shot only 5-for-16 from the floor for 11 points.
Ennis and Cooney combined to shoot 6-for-20 for 17 points.
The Wolfpack did a great job on the defensive end, holding Syracuse to 35.2 percent from the floor as a team.
On the other end, though, NC State came up just short.
Warren led all scorers with 23 points, while Kyle Washington and Ralston Turner had 14 and 13, respectively.
The other six Wolfpack players in the box score combined to make only one field goal, scoring five points. NC State's supporting cast simply didn't show up.
This is the kind of win that makes you wonder if Syracuse is in the midst of a charmed season. It's kind of like the feeling that surrounded the Auburn Tigers in their run to the BCS National Championship this past college football season. So many things are going right for the Orange that they're never out of a game, no matter how deep the hole.
Syracuse has a tough stretch of games coming up, with a road trip to Durham against the Blue Devils on Feb. 22 and then another road game a week later against No. 17 Virginia.