It's going to take something or someone special to beat Syracuse this season. That much is clear after the Orange pulled out another stunning victory in the final seconds Saturday -- its second of the week -- just when it seemed to be headed for its first loss of the season.
North Carolina State committed two turnovers in the final 21 seconds while nursing a one-point advantage. The second miscue was stolen by Syracuse forward Rakeem Christmas who started a fast break that ended in C.J. Fair's layup being counted after goaltending was called on the Wolfpack with less than 7 seconds remaining.
North Carolina State sophomore T.J. Warren attempted a long jumper that missed with 2 seconds remaining and Syracuse escaped with a 56-55 triumph to remain one of two undefeated teams in the nation. The other perfect team is Wichita State, which plays Sunday at Evansville.
Syracuse freshman guard Tyler Ennis was the hero Wednesday when he hit a near-half-court jumper at the buzzer to shock Pitt on its home court. Ennis nearly became the goat Saturday when he was called for charging as he drove into the lane and pushed off with his forearm with 14 seconds remaining.
But the Orange proved resilient enough to overcome even a crucial mistake in the waning moments from a player who has made few of them in a stellar debut season at the college level. It didn't hurt that Syracuse still had fouls to give down the stretch and didn't automatically send the Wolfpack to the foul line when the whistles blew.
It allowed coach Jim Boeheim's team to continue to play aggressive pressure defense and NC State didn't handle it well with the game on the line. Christmas' steal capped one of his best performances of the season. He scored 14 points with 12 rebounds and seven blocked shots.
Give the Wolfpack credit for playing the nation's top team so well on its home court after a rough travel day. The start of the game was delayed by four hours because of a winter storm that prevented NC State from arriving until Saturday afternoon.
Even at 25-0 overall and 12-0 in the ACC and the Orange proving to handle late-game pressure well, it still seems unlikely Syracuse will survive the regular season undefeated. The Orange finish the season with four of the final five games on the road, the first of which is next Saturday at Duke.
Syracuse survived its first meeting with the Blue Devils earlier this month but needed overtime to do so in what might have been the most entertaining college basketball game of the season to date.
Perhaps confronting Duke and the Cameron Crazies will be that special combination that finally topples the Orange this season. After the past week, there won't be many eager to bet on it.
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