N.C. State Basketball: Wolfpack get huge tournament boost with win at Syracuse

The N.C. State basketball team earned a hard-fought road win on Tuesday night at Syracuse.

Coming into Tuesday night’s showdown with Syracuse, N.C. State basketball had yet to post a signature win this season. While beating the nine-loss Orange isn’t what you’d typically call a marquee win, it was a game the Wolfpack undoubtedly needed to win. State had almost a full week to gear up for Syracuse, and it showed early on. The Wolfpack jumped out to a nine-point lead midway through the first half, and was up four at the intermission. The game went back and forth throughout most of the second half; however, in the end it was N.C. State who survived a late Syracuse push to notch a 79-74 win. The victory marks the Pack’s second on the current road trip, and elevates them to fifth in the conference standings.

Devon Daniels continued his good work for the Wolfpack, as he led the team in scoring against the Orange.

Tuesday night marked the fifth-straight game that junior guard Devon Daniels has finished in double-figures. Over that span Daniels is averaging 16 points and more than five rebounds per game. Perhaps just as impressive is the fact that he’s shooting 46% from the field in those contests. It’s also worth noting that he’s been getting it done on the defensive end as well. In State’s last five games, Daniels has recorded at least three steals in three of those games. He led the team with 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting against Syracuse, including two makes from beyond the arc.

Seeing as though teammates CJ Bryce and Markell Johnson seem to be re-emerging as scorers over the past few games, the Wolfpack could be heating up at just the right time. March is fast approaching, and State’s schedule isn’t going to be getting any easier. Despite that, if Daniels, Bryce, and Johnson can all get going at the same time, they’ll become an incredibly difficult team to defend. Add in the fact that DJ Funderburk is as dynamic as they come down low, and N.C. State could suddenly be a nightmare to go up against.

Points off turnovers were a huge reason for N.C. State’s success against the Orange.

Perhaps the biggest advantage the Wolfpack held over Syracuse was points off turnovers. State outscored the Orange 23-12 following a turnover, forcing 15 in all. As a result, the Pack also led by a wide margin in terms of fast break points, outscoring Syracuse 21-13. Seeing as though State actually committed more turnovers than their opposition, the Pack did a good job of getting back on defense and limiting the damage.

On the other hand, they were able to take advantage of Syracuse’s mistakes, in large part due to Johnson’s passing ability. Over the past few seasons, the senior guard has developed into one of the premier facilitators in the ACC. As a matter of fact, Johnson’s eight assists were more than the Orange had as a team on Tuesday night. The more they share the ball and create havoc off of turnovers, the more dangerous this team will be.

The Wolfpack will have several more opportunities to boost their tournament chances as the season winds down.

While the Syracuse win is certainly helpful as far as boosting N.C. State’s tournament resume, it is far from nailing down a bid. Any road win in conference play is going to help the team’s chances; however, with the ACC being perceived as “weak” this year, eight or ten conference wins don’t mean as much as they normally would. With that being said, a win over a national giant would go a long way.

Fortunately for State, they’ll have three opportunities to get a big-time win down the stretch. After finishing off the road trip at Boston College this weekend, the Wolfpack will play back-to-back home games against Duke and Florida State. Two weeks later they’ll get another shot at the rival Blue Devils. N.C. State is on the bubble for sure, but if they can take care of business and win one of those games, there’s a good chance they’ll be going Dancing next month.