NC State falls to No. 1 Syracuse 88-72
C.J. Williams is rapidly evolving from role player to key scorer
for North Carolina State.
Williams finished with 25 points in the Wolfpack’s 88-72 loss to
No. 1 Syracuse on Saturday night, marking the second straight game
in which the 6-foot-5 senior has set a career high in scoring. In
fact, going back to a loss at Stanford, Williams has scored at
least 18 points in three straight games.
Against the Orange’s zone defense, Williams kept thriving by
flashing to the high post underneath the guards in the Syracuse
zone for mid-range shots. He also hit three 3-pointers.
The output is coming from a player who never averaged even five
points in any of his first three seasons. Under first-year coach
Mark Gottfried, Williams is averaging 13.3 points and shooting
nearly 55 percent from the field.
”I’ve always felt I’m a good mid-range shooter,” Williams
said. ”I just tried to find the gaps and get to the spots where I
know I’m confident and shooting the ball. I was able to hit a
couple of 3s early and then that kind of stretched out their
defense a little bit, so I was able to find the gap in the
”I just felt like I was in a rhythm. My teammates were finding
me in the open spots, so I was able to knock down open shots.”
For Syracuse, Dion Waiters scored a career-high 22 points while
Kris Joseph added 21.
Scoop Jardine added 16 points for the Orange (11-0), including a
pair of 3-pointers during an 11-2 spurt that finally gave them some
cushion after the Wolfpack fought back from a 17-point deficit late
in the first half. Waiters also came up big during that run,
starting it by knocking down his own 3-pointer to answer one by
Scott Wood that brought N.C. State (6-4) within 63-61.
Waiters also jumped a pass and raced in for a dunk, then Jardine
closed the spurt with another 3 to push the lead to 74-63 with 6:41
It was a good road test for Syracuse, which was playing for the
first time as No. 1 this season – as well as its first game outside
its home state.
”Not to say that we’re arrogant, but we’re No. 1 in the country
for a reason,” Joseph said. ”Going into someone else’s home, it’s
always going to be tough. Like I said, we held our composure –
that’s what I took out of this game.”
The Orange trailed by eight early before Waiters scored 10
points during a game-turning 23-0 run that silenced a rowdy sellout
crowd and helped Syracuse take a 47-33 halftime lead. But the
Wolfpack charged out of halftime with a 13-1 run to get back in it
and even twice tied the game to re-energize the home crowd – only
to see Waiters and Jardine knock down huge shots to take back
N.C. State has frequently had nearby rivals Duke and North
Carolina come into Raleigh with a No. 1 ranking. But this was the
first time a nonconference No. 1 had come here since February 1979
and just the second time in program history, creating a far more
lively environment than usual for a Christmas-time matchup.
”We knew they were going to come out throwing punches and we
had to be ready to throw punches back,” Waiters said. ”With the
No. 1 team coming inside here, we knew it was going to be a hostile
environment but we had to stick together as a unit, play together
and do everything we usually do in practice.”
Syracuse shot 57 percent and hit 11 of 25 3-point tries. N.C.
State was even better at 58 percent and made 7 of 14 3s, but the
Wolfpack committed 19 turnovers that led to 25 points for Syracuse.
In addition, Waiters’ huge scoring day helped the Orange reserves
outscore the Wolfpack reserves 46-4 for the game.
N.C. State fell to 5-26 against No. 1 teams, with its last win
coming in 2004 against Duke.
”Once you lose a game, you sit up here and say, `They’ve got a
great team, yada, yada, yada,”’ Gottfried said. ”I’ve been around
a lot of good teams, guy, and that team right there might be
playing on Monday night in April. We did a lot of good things
tonight. We just didn’t do enough of them.”