NC State played about as well as it possibly could at the offensive end for 20 minutes, putting up 47 first-half points on 17-30 shooting from the field. Unfortunately for the Wolfpack, these games are by rule 40 minutes long. In the second half, State went 0-8 from beyond the arc and shot just 10-31 from the field, and so a nine-point halftime lead became a three-point loss.
Without such an extreme veer into futility, NC State probably gets out of Syracuse with a critical road win. Instead, the Pack has to swallow another tight loss in conference play. State needed the Orange to miss some free throws in the last minute, but the Orange are one of the best free throw shooting teams in the country and did not cooperate.
Still, State had one last chance to tie the game but was unable to create even a decent look at the hoop, and Cam Hayes’ prayer from the wing was way off the mark.
Jericole Hellems led the way with 24 points on 9-19 shooting, and he was tremendous working the middle of the zone in the first half. Manny Bates, too, took excellent advantage of Syracuse’s discombobulated back line, and dunked the ball four times in the opening half. He finished with 17 points, 14 rebounds, and four blocks.
NC State got what it needed from those two, but without DJ Funderburk or Devon Daniels, there wasn’t enough scoring punch elsewhere, particularly in the second half, when it really would have come in handy.
Cam Hayes finished 0-3 from the field, while Shakeel Moore was 2-8.
You’re in some trouble if you can’t make a few jumpers against the Syracuse zone, no matter how good your execution otherwise. When NC State came away with a win at the Dome last year, it shot 11-25 from three. The Pack was on a similar pace after shooting 6-15 in the first half, but the production then completely dried up.
It’s disappointing to waste a great 20 minutes like that, but then, this has been a season of disappointments.