Syracuse had a tough game against a team from the ACC a week ago. It could find things easier against another team from that conference this weekend.
The eighth-ranked Orange seek an 8-0 start on Saturday when they host North Carolina State, which lost by 39 in its last game and remains without leading returning scorer Tracy Smith.
Syracuse is off to another strong start after opening 13-0 last season and 9-0 two seasons ago. The Orange will get another look at the ACC after earning an 80-76 victory last Saturday over Georgia Tech in the Legends Classic championship game.
The Orange bring a 17-game, home non-conference win streak into this matchup with North Carolina State (4-2), which sorely misses Smith. The senior forward averaged team highs of 16.5 points and 7.3 rebounds last season, and has been out since undergoing knee surgery Nov. 19.
The Wolfpack have no player ranked in the top 20 in scoring in the ACC. They start two freshmen and two sophomores, and the inexperience showed in Wednesday’s 87-48 loss at Wisconsin - N.C. State’s worst defeat since a 46-point loss at Maryland in 1999.
“I don’t think we handled it well, I don’t think we handled it well at all,” coach Sidney Lowe said. “Tentative, bad decisions, a couple of times just not ready to make the pass that was there on time.”
Scott Wood was the only Wolfpack player to reach double figures with 13 points. Freshmen Lorenzo Brown, C.J. Leslie and Ryan Harrow combined to make 5 of 28 shots for 16 points.
“It’s just a learning curve for them. I know it’s going to come around for them,” Wood said. “It’s just tough. Every person on this team was the star of their high school team, and then coming here you’ve just got to kind of step into a role.”
No N.C. State player is averaging more than 6.7 rebounds, and that looks like a problem against surging Syracuse forward Rick Jackson.
Jackson was named MVP of the Legends Classic and has turned in six straight double-doubles. He had 17 points and 13 boards in Tuesday’s 78-58 home win over Cornell.
Jackson is among the nation’s leaders with a 13.0 rebounding average. He lost 25 pounds from his 6-foot-9 frame, and is now listed at 240.
“I’ve just got the mind-set to go after every one (rebound),” he said. “I feel like I’m moving quicker, a little bit more physical, even though I lost weight. I wouldn’t say I’m stronger, but I’m more explosive. I’m just able to bang more, get off the ground a little bit more.”
The Orange are looking for improvement after committing a season-high 20 turnovers Tuesday, with half by the starting backcourt of Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche.
“We just made ridiculous turnovers that we just can’t have,” coach Jim Boeheim said. “We just can’t seem to get together for 40 minutes. We’re a long ways from where we need to be at this stage of the year.”
The Orange lead the series, 2-1. An unranked Wolfpack team won the last meeting, 82-68 at the Carrier Dome to end the 9-0 start of a No. 9 Syracuse squad on Dec. 8, 2001.