In a must win situation, NC State did what they couldn’t do a few weeks ago and knocked off Syracuse.
TJ Warren led his team with 28 points and 8 boards, while senior Jordan Vandenberg had the game of his career. Vandy finished 5-5 with 10 points and 5 boards and helped keep the Orange off balance in the lane.
This win gives NC State a very real shot at playing in the NCAA tournament and gives them a matchup with either Clemson or Duke tomorrow. Before we get into all that, however, let’s break down how the Pack was able to upset #11 Syracuse.
TJ Warren at it again
You could see it in his eyes. TJ Warren wasn’t going home without a W. He knew this team was capable, but he knew he needed to have a big game….so he did.
Warren scored 28 points on 9-21 shooting and really willed the Wolfpack to this win. While they needed everyone of his buckets, what he did on defense maybe be even more impressive. CJ Fair had scored 50 points over his 2 previous games and was really leading the Orange offense. Against State Fair had only 9 points on 3-16 shooting and it was all because of the quality job TJ Warren did.
How this kid doesn’t get tired is beyond me. He works tirelessly to get open on offense, pushes himself to give that extra burst when he makes his move to the hoop and throws his body around like he’s invincible, then on the other end he’s guarding the oppositions most versatile player and usually shutting them down. Fair couldn’t get anything going. Warren was too long for him to get clean looks, he was too quick for Fair to get by him off the dribble, he was completely in shut down mode and took the Orange best player out of the game.
Warren showed up huge on both ends of the floor in this one and by the looks of it…he’s not done yet.
Jordan Vandenberg Plays the Perfect Game
I’m so happy for the guy. Years of waiting, but finally it’s his time and on the biggest stage he played his biggest game.
Vandy finished with 10 points of 5-5 shooting, grabbed 5 boards and was an enforcer in the paint. He was in the right place at the right time all night long, finishing dunks, knocking down jumpers and dishing out some great passes.
I actually can’t think of a mistake that Jordan made tonight…this was his perfect game.
Defense that just won’t quit
This team went on lockdown mode against Syracuse. With all the talk about the Syracuse zone and how hard it is to score against, State was actually the game that looked like the defensive masterminds. They held the Orange to only 32% from the field. Now, this is a team that shoots 43%. It’s also a team that rebounds like animals, however State held them in check, only getting out-rebounded by 3 (36-33).
Tyler Ennis and Jerami Grant did everything in their power to keep Syracuse in this game, but it wasn’t enough. The Wolfpack defense was swarming and relentless all night long.
Point Guard Production
Cat Barber played great once again. Sure, he did get a little loose with the basketball (4 TOs), but he was a big reason that the Pack won this game. He dished out 6 big assists and had 2 huge steals to go with 4 points. Barber was able to get into the zone and find the open man. He was great on the break and he is starting to become a true PG. His defense on Ennis was also impressive. While Syracuse PG did drop 21 points, Barber did a great job of making it hard for him to get open looks.
Tyler Lewis also played a very strong game. Early on Lewis was the only offense State could muster outside of Warren. His two 3’s in the first half were huge. He finished with 7 points, 2 assists and one TO.
And for anyone who has ever questioned Gottfried, please take a look at this interview. This man cares about his players, he cares about this school….
and…the heart-attack inducing finale
NC State NET Rankings Report After Syracuse Loss
NC State lost to Syracuse 83-87 last night, and as a result, the Wolfpack fell 5 spots in the NET Rankings to #80. The Orange moved up 6 spots to #84.
NC State is now 9th in the ACC in the NET rankings.
For a refresher on how the NET Rankings are calculated:
Using the quadrant system, which was in its fourth season in 2020-21, the quality of wins and losses will be organized based on game location and the opponent’s NET ranking.
Quadrant 1: Home 1-30, Neutral 1-50, Away 1-75
Quadrant 2: Home 31-75, Neutral 51-100, Away 76-135
Quadrant 3: Home 76-160, Neutral 101-200, Away 135-240
Quadrant 4: Home 161-353, Neutral 201-353, Away 241-353
The number of Quadrant 1 wins and Quadrant 3/4 losses will be incredibly important when it comes time for NCAA tournament selection and seeding. (NCAA)
Thoughts on NC State’s 83-87 Loss to Syracuse
NC State’s (16-10/8-7) 83-87 loss to Syracuse this evening might have been the nail-in-the-coffin when it comes to the Wolfpack’s NCAA Tournament aspirations. They were barely on the bubble as it was, but this game and the next two games against Boston College and Florida State were “must wins.” On top of that, the Wolfpack probably needed to beat Pitt in the regular season finale, and beat either Duke or UNC.
With this loss, NC State will need a miracle. They will need to win the rest of their regular season games, which concludes with 3 consecutive Quad 1 games.
In regards to this evenings game, it’s hard to beat a team when you allow them to shoot 61.3% in the first half, and allow a guy who averages 11.3 points per game (Chris Bell) to sink 8 of 9 three’s at the halfway mark. Sure, you could make the excuse that they were just hitting everything they threw up, but the defense was lackluster, and they failed to adjust to a player with a hot hand.
What I’m about to say isn’t meant to describe a moral victory for NC State. With that being said, this team didn’t give up, and clawed back from a 15-point halftime deficit (16-point at one point in the 2nd half), to take a 1-point lead with 3:15 left in the game. That was the first time the Wolfpack had led since it was 2-0.
Senior DJ Horne was sensational once again, scoring 25+ points for the 5th straight game, matching what Cat Barber did back in 2015-16. Horne finished with 32 points, hitting 11 of his 20 field goal attempts, and an insane 6 of 8 from three.
Could you argue that Horne was fouled on the last play? I guess, but I wouldn’t have called it.
Three other Wolfpack players scored in double figures: Ben Middlebrooks (12), DJ Burns (12) and Jayden Taylor (10). Honestly, they all shot well. Middlebrooks had a double-double, with 10 rebounds.
Mohamed Diarra was solid with 7 points (3-6) and 8 boards.
Syracuse came back to reality in the second half, and ended up shooting 51% from the field, but the Wolfpack shot 47%. Both teams shot well. In fact, NC State actually scored more points off of turnovers, had more second chance points and had more free throws.
You simply can’t put yourself in a position to dig yourself out of a 16-point deficit. You can’t allow a guy to make 8 of 9 three’s in the opening half, with 6 of them being practically uncontested.
The Wolfpack have lost 3 of the last 4, and all 3 losses have been by 4 points or less. I wouldn’t say the Pack lost any of those three games due to a lack of effort. Rather, I would say it was primarily due to inconsistency, a lack of discipline and poor decisions in timely moments (Jayden Taylor’s TO with 1:13 left with the game tied).
With Wake Forest beating Pitt tonight, a Wolfpack win would have put them in 4th place in the ACC.
A big missed opportunity for the Pack this evening.
NC State 83 Syracuse 87: BOX SCORE
DJ Horne is Looking to Continue His Streak of 20+ Points or More
NC State is trying to stop a 6-game losing streak to Syracuse tonight, but Senior Wolfpack Guard DJ Horne is trying to continue a streak.
Currently, Horne has scored 20+ points in 5 straight games, which is tied with what Terquavion Smith did last year. If Horne scores 20+ points tonight, his 6-game streak will be the longest since 2015-16, when Cat Barber strung together 7 straight games of 20+ points.
Horne also has scored 25+ points in 4 straight games. If he does so again tonight, he will be the first player to do so since Barber did so in 2015-16, when he scored 25+ in 5-straight games.
What Horne has done in his coming home campaign has been nothing short of remarkable. He is shooting 43.4% from three, which ranks 2nd in the ACC. In his last 18 games, Horne is shooting 46.6% from deep. In ACC play, Horne is averaging 19.3 points per game, which ranks 2nd in the conference.
Here’s what Horne’s numbers look like over his 5-game streak of 20+ points: 26.6 points/51.8 FG%/48.8 3PT%.