The North Carolina State Wolfpack stunned Syracuse on Friday night in Greensboro, N.C., topping the 11th-ranked Orange, 66-63, to advance to the 2014 ACC tournament semifinals.
SportsCenter tweeted about the upset:
Down goes Cuse! NC State gets revenge for last-minute regular season loss to the Orange, advance to ACC tourney semis.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 15, 2014
Jim Boeheim's squad got to the foul line plenty, but struggled all night from the floor, shooting just 32.7 percent for the game and connecting on just 4-of-17 shots from beyond the arc.
Coming into Friday's quarterfinal showdown, NC State head coach Mark Gottfried was well aware of the opportunity in front of his squad following a controversial one-point loss at Syracuse on Feb. 15.
"It's not about payback," he told the Tampa Bay Times. "It's about opportunity. And we've got an opportunity that is golden. Couldn't ask for a better one."
Friday's quarterfinal was a defensive struggle from the opening tip as both teams had a tough time knocking down shots. Despite their poor shooting, the Orange took a four-point lead midway through the first half. But not long after Syracuse went ahead 11-7, a Lennard Freeman dunk sparked an 8-2 run for the Wolfpack.
With both teams struggling from the field, NC State took a 28-25 lead into the locker room at halftime.
WRALSportsFan.com's Aaron Schoonmaker tweeted the dismal numbers early on:
What's the opposite of a heat check? NC State and Syracuse are currently a combined 10-41 (23.4%) from the field.— Aaron Schoonmaker (@AaronSchoony) March 14, 2014
Both sides started fast in the second half, but NC State took control a few minutes in, going on a 13-3 run. After a T.J. Warren jumper, NC State led 50-40 with 11 minutes to play. At that point, realizing time was running out, Syracuse mounted its comeback, going on a 19-7 run to pull ahead by two points with under four minutes to play.
Tied at 59-59, NC State's Ralston Turner made arguably the biggest play of the game, nailing a three-pointer off the glass to put the Wolfpack up three, per Star-News ACC Insider on Twitter:
I'm pretty sure Turner didn't call glass on that one .... but #NCState will take it— Star-News ACC (@starnewsacc) March 15, 2014
The Orange had several chances to tie the game in the waning seconds but couldn't cash in, falling victim to their offensive struggles yet again.
NC State's clutch late-game execution will certainly boost its chances of making the NCAA tournament, but another win this weekend would be huge as it is sitting on 21 heading into Saturday.
If you ask ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale, the Wolfpack are already in:
NCSU with a big big W over Syracuse - NCAA dancing baby - hey Jimmy V jumping with joy in Heaven !— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) March 15, 2014
Key Player Grades
C.J. Fair, F, Syracuse: D
Syracuse senior C.J. Fair struggled mightily on Friday, shooting 3-of-16 from the field on his way to a nine-point night.
In addition to his offensive struggles, Fair was a non-factor on the glass, reeling in just five total rebounds and failing to secure a single offensive rebound.
T.J. Warren, F, NC State: A+
Sophomore forward T.J. Warren was the most valuable player for NC State on Friday, scoring 28 points, grabbing eight rebounds and blocking two shots.
He accounted for 42 percent of the Wolfpack's total field-goal attempts, but keep in mind that no other NC State player scored more than 10 points on Friday.
Tyler Ennis, G, Syracuse: B-
Like the rest of his Orange teammates, Tyler Ennis struggled with his shot on Friday. Still, the freshman demonstrated his poise by getting to the foul line (he went 6-of-6 on his free-throw attempts) and creating chances for others. He was also a force on the defensive end of the floor.
He finished with 21 points, seven assists, five rebounds and four steals.
NC State is marching on to the ACC tournament semifinals on Saturday. The Wolfpack will play the winner of Duke vs. Clemson and will need two more wins to guarantee a berth in the NCAA tournament.
On the other hand, Syracuse is a lock to make the tournament's field of 68. However, with five losses in their last seven games, the Orange are in danger of missing out on one of the top three seeds and falling down to a No. 4 seed, which would make their journey to the Final Four that much more difficult.
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