SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP)—That Orange gang that can’t yet seem to shoot straight still has an ace in the hole—Jim Boeheim’s frustrating zone defense.
He made six 3s in the game but missed three times from beyond the arc in the final 2 minutes and committed a costly turnover as Syracuse held on for a 65-59 victory on Saturday night.
“I think when it came down to it, we really rallied and played good,” said Rick Jackson, who had 16 points, eight rebounds and four of the Orange’s 12 steals. “Down the stretch they really kept looking for one guy to really shoot all their 3s and make all their shots. We took that away.”
North Carolina State (4-3) seemed poised for an upset after taking a six-point lead midway through the second half, but in the final eight minutes Syracuse forced two shot-clock violations and held the Wolfpack without a basket for the final 7:20.
“They started executing their defense,” Javier Gonzalez said. “They started covering down and talking, and they did a good job.”
Scoop Jardine scored 23 points to lead the Orange (8-0) and Kris Joseph had eight points and corralled two key rebounds in the final 67 seconds while playing stalwart defense against Wood, who finished with 18 points. Freshman C.J. Leslie had 13 points and 11 rebounds off the bench for the Wolfpack.
“It was just me and him,” Joseph said. “That was all I saw on the court. I wanted to make sure I made him shoot the most difficult shot possible.”
Syracuse remained unbeaten despite shooting 38.3 percent and just 2 of 16 from beyond the arc. The Orange missed all eight 3s they attempted in the second half, but they had only five turnovers in the game and scored 28 points off the Wolfpack’s 19 turnovers, and that helped spell the difference.
“The main problem is our offense. We’ve got to find a way to make some of those, you can’t shoot 2 for 16,” Boeheim said. “We’d have two or three losses if we were playing average defense. You don’t win games shooting 38 percent. At least we’ve proven we can win a close game at this stage.”
Syracuse wasn’t much better than North Carolina State in the closing moments. Jackson’s hook over Leslie with 6:43 left was the Orange’s last basket. It gave Syracuse a 59-58 lead, and Syracuse held on despite missing three free throws in the final 2:08.
Wood was 2 for 8 on 3-pointers in the second half after hitting 4 of 7 in the first, and the open looks he found early disappeared when the game was on the line.
With Syracuse clinging to a 61-59 lead after freshman center Baye Moussa Keita made one of two free throws with 2:08 left, Wood lost the ball out of bounds on the Wolfpack’s next possession and missed a long 3 from the top of the key under pressure that would have tied the game at 62 with just under 30 seconds left.
“Scott can shoot it from anywhere,” Leslie said. “The shots he was taking, Coach was comfortable with it and as a team we were all comfortable with it ‘cause we know how he can shoot.”
North Carolina State trailed the entire first half before surging ahead at the start of the second. After Jardine’s driving layup tied it at 42 with 14:51 left, DeShawn Painter’s soft hook off the glass and a 3-pointer from the right wing by Wood gave the Wolfpack a 51-45 lead with 12:17 left.
Syracuse pressed to rally. Jackson slammed home a dunk and his lob to Dion Waiters had the Orange back within 53-49, and the Orange slowly chipped away.
Wood matched his season high from beyond the arc by hitting four 3s in the first half as he repeatedly broke free for open looks against the Orange’s zone.
After jumpers by Brandon Triche and Jackson gave Syracuse a 31-18 lead with 8:31 left, Wood hit two straight 3s to key a 12-1 spurt that got the Wolfpack back in the game as Syracuse got careless, missing three shots and committing a turnover.
A dunk by Leslie and another by Ryan Harrow moved North Carolina State within 32-30 at 5:24. Syracuse led 38-34 at halftime.
In its previous game, North Carolina State was humbled at Wisconsin, 87-48, on Wednesday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Badgers held the Wolfpack without a point for more than 10 minutes straddling halftime and scored 23 straight points.