A great shooting performance wasn’t enough to get NC State to the finish line on Wednesday night, although it was close. The Pack rallied from a big second-half deficit, shot the ball well, but offered nothing defensively, and ended up dropping an 89-82 decision. Stop me if you’ve heard any of this before.
State does not defend, and the degree of difficulty continues to increase as injuries weed through its power forwards. It’s a tough ask to win a conference basketball game when 80% of your available post players are out. Jaylon Gibson was State’s only interior player available tonight. He played admirably, posting 14 points and 6 boards, but State gave up 89 points on 59% shooting. Syracuse shot 58% from three and made 21 of 35 shots from inside the arc. The Orange are good offensively and had no trouble with a defense ranked in the bottom 100 of the country.
State was actually pretty good on the other side of the court, like it has been for almost all of the conference season. Terquavion Smith remains excellent, making seven threes, and State tore apart the Syracuse zone pretty easily in the first half. The Pack was 10-20 from three going into the break, but only held only a three-point lead at 45-42. That’s kind of a bad omen as far as the final result goes.
The Orange started the second half on a 12-3 run and eventually opened an 11-point lead. State would rally and cut it to one on a Jaylon Gibson and-one, but Syracuse had an answer all night and State couldn’t hit a big shot in the game’s final minutes. Again, stop me if you’ve heard this before.
Losing its top 4 post players has rapidly accelerated NC State towards a point where its ceiling is just unworkably low. Kevin Keatts has never had a really good defensive team and the injury issues have compounded this one’s problems to the point where they’ve crippled the team despite being solid on the other end. That’s about where we are now, and it’s too bad because this team plays it butt off. It just isn’t enough.