NC State-Syracuse Preview
Tyler Ennis hit a long buzzer-beater to keep Syracuse unbeaten and unanimously ranked No. 1 in the nation.
After a stunning win at Pittsburgh, the team now has a good shot to extend its run with two favorable home matchups. The Orange, who face a tough road test at Duke next weekend, try to continue their best start Saturday against North Carolina State.
Syracuse (24-0, 11-0) is making its first season in the ACC memorable after Ennis delivered an iconic moment with the team looking to become the first to go undefeated since Indiana in 1975-76.
The freshman guard took an inbound pass with 4.4 seconds left, dribbled up the court and buried a 35-footer for a 58-56 victory over the No. 25 Panthers on Wednesday. The improbable shot came after Syracuse erased a nine-point deficit in the second half.
Ennis' heroics may have earned him a call from Vice President Joe Biden, who received his law degree from Syracuse, but the team isn't focused on closing without a blemish.
"At the beginning of the season, who knew?" guard Trevor Cooney said. "But an undefeated season can't be in your mind. It's pretty cool, but it can't be in your mind."
Next Saturday's game at No. 8 Duke kicks off a three-game trip that remains a major roadblock for the Orange, who edged the Blue Devils 91-89 in overtime at home Feb. 1.
Before that rematch, however, Syracuse hosts the Wolfpack (16-8, 6-5) and Boston College, which is 1-9 on the road. The Orange are outscoring opponents by an average of 18.1 points during a 54-2 stretch at home. Despite going 15-0 at the Carrier Dome this season, they're not taking any opponent lightly.
"You know you're going to get everyone else's best game. We're going to get challenged day-in and day-out," said forward C.J. Fair, who had a team-leading 14 points Wednesday. "It's not going to be an easy game for us any day."
Syracuse hasn't been making things easy for its opponents, either.
The team gives up an average 58.3 points, ranking seventh in the nation and second in the ACC to No. 17 Virginia (55.5). That strong defensive play has been evident over the past seven games as the Orange have yielded just 38.3 percent shooting while matching their season mark by hitting 45.8.
Syracuse has won four of five all-time meetings with N.C. State, taking the most recent matchup 88-72 on the road Dec. 17, 2011.
The Wolfpack are trying to carry their strong shooting at home into a three-game road swing after an 82-67 win over visiting Wake Forest on Tuesday in which they shot 52.5 percent from the field - including 8 of 18 from long range.
N.C. State averages 74.8 points on 48.4 percent shooting at home compared to 65.3 and 40.9 percent while splitting eight road games.
Another strong performance from T.J. Warren will be key for the Wolfpack. The sophomore forward's average of 23.1 points ranks him eighth in the nation, and he leads the team with 7.4 rebounds. He's been even better over the past four games, averaging 28.0 points on 58.4 percent shooting. He's gone 9 for 17 from beyond the arc in that span.
Warren's latest performance was his best yet. He poured in a career-high 34 points while pulling down 10 boards against the Demon Deacons.
The Wolfpack won their most recent meeting with a top-ranked opponent, beating Duke 84-76 on Jan. 12, 2013. However, the team has dropped eight in a row against Top 25 teams, including a 65-59 loss in its most recent visit to Syracuse on Dec. 4, 2010.