Rushed Reactions: N.C. State 66, #11 Syracuse 63Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 14th, 2014
ACC Microsite writers Matt Patton and Brad Jenkins will be reporting live from Greensboro at the 2014 ACC Tournament throughout the week.
Three Key Takeaways in the Wolfpack’s upset win.
- N.C. State finally got that elusive quality win its been hunting all season. After last second losses to Syracuse and North Carolina in the ACC regular season, the third time was the charm for the Wolfpack. While the win may not put N.C. State into the NCAA field just yet, at least it keeps that dream alive. And with many other bubble teams falling all over the country, the Pack may be in great shape for a bid if they can at least get to the championship game. This game was following the same script as those previous two heartbreaking losses, with the Wolfpack building a nice second half lead only to see the opponent come back and take the game down to the wire. But this time, N.C. State rewrote the disappointing ending. It was instead the Wolfpack that made more winning plays down the stretch. Two of the biggest were on the defensive end, as N.C. State drew offensive fouls on C.J. Fair and Tyler Ennis in the last three minutes of play.
- Syracuse is in a serious shooting slump. The main reason that the Orange lost four of six games after starting the year with 25 straight wins was that they shot under 40 percent from the field in all six games. After closing the regular season with a solid performance (48%) at Florida State, Jim Boeheim was hoping that was the start of a turnaround. Now, that game just looks like an outlier. Against an N.C. State defense that ranked 11th in the ACC in opponents’ shooting (42.2%), Syracuse struggled all night, shooting just 32.7 percent for the game. The last scattered Syracuse possession was a perfect example as the Orange missed six straight shots, many badly. In particular, its stars are no longer making shots like they did earlier in the season. C. J. Fair was a woeful 3-of-16 in the game and guards Trevor Cooney and Tyler Ennis combined to go 7-of-24 themselves. Perhaps the major minutes those players logged all year have finally gotten into their legs. And with this year’s Syracuse team not nearly as stingy defensively as last season’s Final Four squad, things are not looking good for a deep NCAA Tournament run for the Orange this year.
- With T.J. Warren on its squad, N.C. State can compete with any team. Warren has carried the Wolfpack all year and amazingly seems to be playing his best in the last three weeks of the season despite being the focus of every defense. It certainly is a tribute to his offseason conditioning, dropping around 20 pounds in preparation for the long season. Warren’s teammates also deserve credit for learning to take advantage of the openings that are created due to the pressure he puts on a team’s defense. While Warren shot a respectable 9-of-21 from the floor against Syracuse, his teammates collectively made a solid 14-of-29. That’s a good strategy for this team to continue to scrap out wins.
Star of the Game. T.J. Warren, N.C. State. Who else could it be? The ACC Player of the Year led the way with 28 points and eight boards, and also took on the defensive challenge of guarding C.J. Fair for most of the game. While Fair missed some open looks, Warren did a nice job of keeping Fair out of the lane, making him a jump shooter for most of the night.
- “I think we shot the ball badly and it’s hard to recover when you’re not shooting the ball well, it’s very difficult to win.” – Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, on his team’s shooting woes.
- “I’m extremely proud of a young team that keeps battling, doesn’t get down, bounces back.” – N.C. State’s Mark Gottfried, on the Wolfpack’s resilience.
- “I think he was clearly the best player in the league this year.” – Boeheim, on T.J. Warren.
Sights and Sounds. The Syracuse faithful deserve credit for so many fans making the trek down south for their first ACC Tournament. A few years ago the ACC changed its equal-distribution policy because not all schools were selling their allotments. Now, more tickets go to where the demand is, and evidently demand was high in Syracuse compared to the other non-North Carolina schools. Of course the local schools have the advantage of being nearby to buy other school fans’ tickets as teams are eliminated from the tournament. N.C. State was the biggeset benefactor of North Carolina’s afternoon loss, snagging many seats from their rival’s departing fans. That combined with the Wolfpack’s underdog status made this is very pro-N.C. State arena this evening.
- Syracuse probably will still be a #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament and hopes to be assigned to nearby Buffalo, NY, for its first two games.
- N.C. State keeps its NCAA Tourney bid hopes alive and can improve its position mightily with another win over the winner of Duke vs. Clemson in Saturday’s ACC semifinals (Saturday – 3:30 PM ET).