Syracuse went into the locker room down 47-38. North Carolina State had just torn up the 2-3 zone. The Wolfpack shot 56% from the field, sunk six threes, and bested the Orange in points in the paint, points off of turnovers and second chance points. NC State did all this without their two leading scorers, Devon Daniels (ACL) and D.J. Funderburk (Violation of University Policy, whatever that means).
But the SU squad that came out for the second 20 minutes played with intensity and focus. NC State shot only 32% from the field, missed all of their threes, and left the door wide open for the Orange to close the gap. Syracuse did just that, powered by Kadary Richmond’s ability to get to the rim.
Richmond finished with 14 points, two away from a career high, and it was the timeliness of his buckets that made the difference between Syracuse winning and losing. The freshman either scored or assisted SU’s last eight points in the first half, right when NC State looked primed to expand its lead into the teens. Richmond only tallied six points in the second half, but they came when it counted the most. His spinning left-handed layup over Wolfpack shot blocker Manny Bates sealed the win.
Alan Griffin scored 19 to lead the Orange, and Buddy Boeheim chipped in 17. Griffin was hot early, but settled into a bit more of a distributor role in the second half. Orange fans are still waiting for the “Buddy game,” but it was extremely positive to see the junior contribute even though his shot wasn’t consistently falling.
Jericole Hellems led all scorers with 24 points, most of which came in the first half. Hellems situated himself in the high post area and wrecked havoc on the Orange defense, dishing the ball down low to Bates, kicking out to shooters in the corner, or sinking 15-foot jumpers. Later on in the first half, NC State got out in transition and beat the tired SU starters down the floor for layups.
The second half was a much more calculated effort. Syracuse prevented high post touches, slowed the game down, and let Richmond operate in the half court. The Orange took a 58-56 lead on a Quincy Guerrier layup (Guerrier finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds) and kept the lead until the end.
Things got sketchy in the final seconds. Guerrier fouled a NC State three-point shooter with under 10 seconds left on the game clock, and SU struggled to inbound the ball multiple times against the press. However, the Orange were perfect at the free throw line in the second half, and sealed the game from the stripe.
This game also gave us one of the most memorable memes of the season.
Louisville is up next for Syracuse on Wednesday.