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

middle.

”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

left.

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

control.

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.”