No. 16 Syracuse drops 1st major test in homestand, 77-73, to NC State

first_imgOn Tuesday morning, Quentin Hillsman laid out the blueprint to beat North Carolina State. Behind him, his players practiced it. Shooters lofted 3-pointers on a side court after practice as Hillsman talked about the importance of a high-paced tempo. Minutes before he walked out of the tunnel for Wednesday night’s contest, Hillman repeated the same message. For two quarters, his team executed. And for two quarters, it faltered. The latter sinking No. 16 Syracuse (18-6, 7-4 Atlantic Coast) against No. 12 North Carolina State (22-2, 13-2), 77-73, in the Carrier Dome. SU pressed the entire game, shot 37.5 percent from 3 and scored nearly 20 more points than the best defense in the ACC allows per game (56.5). Yet, the pace slowed in the second half and the Wolfpack benefited. Syracuse has been inconsistent against ranked opponents, pairing terrific showings with abysmal shooting nights. Wednesday night was different. Days after its best offensive performance of the season (96 points) against Boston College, SU executed its deep ball offense but went 14-of-39 from inside the arc. Postgame, multiple players said SU let a ‘W’ slip away. Hillsman questioned his rotation. NC State, lacking one starter, established the balanced scoring SU has predicated the 2019 season on. “They kind of played the game at the pace they wanted to play,” Hillsman said. “…Early, I thought we did a solid job. … In the second half, we didn’t really make shots.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAnna Henderson | Digital Design EditorMiranda Drummond kick-started the first with an uncontested 3. The Orange continuously fired from deep, attempting 10 3s in the frame. Syracuse played its style — shooting, running, pressing — and NC State initially obliged.NC State clanked its deep tries. Syracuse’s press forced tipped passes and turnovers. After one giveaway, Emily Engstler drove the lane, turned and dished it to Drummond for a 3. The visitors called a timeout, and Hillsman walked onto the court while shaking his fist.NC State’s offense continued to pass the ball in-and-out of the paint, taking contested 3s early in possessions when its bigs couldn’t get positioning. Eventually, the Wolfpack’s shots fell. In the second quarter, junior guard Aislinn Konig — who entered the game with a 40.0 shooting percentage from behind the arc — knocked down a step back over Gabrielle Cooper. A few possessions later, after four missed NC State 3s in-a-row, it pushed inside.On some possessions, Wolfpack guards held the ball on the wings and waited for the weak-side player to cut, creating multiple looks. Others, NC State beat SU up the floor in transition. Hillsman called out passing lanes and shouted at SU defenders, telling them to drop closer to the rim. Late in the half, the Orange defense fed off a Raven Fox field goal and drew two turnovers with their press. Tiana Mangakahia ended the half with a 3 off a high-screen and gave SU a 37-35 lead at the break.While the Carrier Dome crowd stood and clapped, waiting for SU to make its first bucket in the third, Kiara Leslie notched a three from each side of the court, flipping the score. The Orange answered with two 3s of their own. But despite SU’s efficient shooting, NC State’s sustained success inside proved the difference.NC State guards repeatedly lofted passes to forward Elissa Cunane. Hillsman said the Wolfpack used double-block action to create space in the second half, letting Cunane score 22 in her first start. Postgame, Hillsman said he could’ve played Engstler (11 minutes) or Marie-Paule Fopposssi more. “We gotta do a better job of trying to control the paint,” Hillsman said. “… They just kind of overpowered us.”The Wolfpack took advantage with timely 3s when Syracuse hedged the paint. As the margin widened, Hillsman told his team that NC State was winning with its game plan. He also told Mangakahia to take over. Mangakahia scored Syracuse’s first five points of the fourth quarter. She assigned herself with stopping Leslie, who finished with six 3s. SU pivoted away from the paint on offense, utilizing pick-and-rolls with its star guard.  With a half-court steal, hesitation shot and lay-in, Mangakahia cut the deficit to two. But after another steal and foul, she split the free throws. She shook her head after the first attempt careened off iron. Mangakahia finished with 25 points in 38 minutes, but couldn’t consistently beat the top scoring defense in the ACC. The Wolfpack inched away with from the line, tallying 17 makes to the Orange’s nine. Repeatedly, the SU’s fans and bench rose with extended arms, complaining about whistles. In half-court sets down the stretch, red jerseys drove past white and flicked assists to open forwards, who were then fouled. Two more eventual Leslie free throws iced it.Two weeks ago, Hillsman stated his team’s initial goal: Be a top-four seed in the NCAA Tournament, and therefore, host a first-round matchup. When the NCAA released a rank of which teams currently held the top-16 slots on Monday, the Orange were left off the list.Wednesday night’s opportunity against preemptive two-seed North Carolina State opened a four-game home stretch that if SU swept, it would pave the road to a March contest in the Carrier Dome. After SU’s second loss in its last three home games, Hillsman still didn’t rule out hosting. But he acknowledged Syracuse harmed its chance. “This was a great opportunity to beat a ranked team on our home court,” Hillsman said. “… We just gotta win games. We understand what the urgency is.” Published on February 13, 2019 at 9:00 pm Contact Nick: [email protected] | @nick_a_alvarez Facebook Twitter Google+center_img Commentslast_img

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