Syracuse Basketball: First win over ranked team is massive boost for ‘Cuse

Syracuse basketball (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)
Syracuse basketball (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images) /

In defeating No. 23 N.C. State by three points at home on Tuesday night, Syracuse basketball notched its first victory over a top-25 team during the 2022-23 campaign – and in this Atlantic Coast Conference clash, the Orange got clutch 3-pointers from freshman point guard Judah Mintz and senior center Jesse Edwards.

It was that kind of night for the ‘Cuse at the JMA Wireless Dome, as the Orange fell behind early on in the first half, then managed to pull ahead at halftime by four points, 35-31.

In the second 20 minutes of action, Syracuse basketball and the Wolfpack engaged in a seesaw, back-and-forth, highly entertaining encounter that produced a lot of wild sequences and an anxiety-filled ending for myself and many other ‘Cuse fans tuning in on Valentine’s Day.

All five Syracuse basketball starters – two seniors and three freshmen – scored at least 10 points, and the Orange held a pivotal 13-point edge at the charity stripe. That was monumental in what ultimately resulted in a 75-72 victory for Syracuse basketball.

While the ‘Cuse focused its offense out in transition and in the paint, not settling for 3-point attempts and getting to the free-throw line, N.C. State spent a lot of time on the perimeter. In fact, nearly half of the Wolfpack’s field-goal attempts were from deep, and N.C. State only connected on 26.5 percent from downtown.

Syracuse basketball secured a much-needed triumph against a nationally ranked squad.

On Tuesday evening, the Wolfpack was No. 36 in the NCAA NET rankings, whereas the Orange resided at No. 98. So for the time being, this is a quadrant-two win for the ‘Cuse. Equally as important, I believe hanging on against N.C. State (20-7, 10-6 in the ACC) is a huge momentum boost as Syracuse basketball (16-10, 9-6) prepares to host Duke this coming Saturday night.

Coming down the final stretch of the 2022-23 regular season, the Orange is on a nice roll. The ‘Cuse won twice in a row on the road, albeit against sub-par teams in Boston College and Florida State, and now Syracuse basketball has picked off a top-25 group.

In moving to 12-6 overall versus N.C. State, the Orange limited the Wolfpack to just 41.7 percent shooting from the field as a whole, and N.C. State only had five attempts from the free-throw line.

Yes, the Wolfpack held a 43-36 advantage over Syracuse basketball on the boards, and N.C. State did corral 16 offensive rebounds. But the Wolfpack also committed 12 turnovers, as compared to 10 miscues for the ‘Cuse.

Edwards struggled from the field, missing multiple shots near the rim, but he did go 7-of-8 from the charity stripe. He finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds.

Mintz was positively terrific. He was 7-of-12 from the field and 5-of-5 from the free-throw line. Mintz tallied 20 points, nine assists and just one turnover.

Senior shooting guard Joe Girard III made two shots from long range. He had 14 points, four boards, two assists and two steals.

Freshman forward Chris Bell collected 11 points and three rebounds, while fellow freshman forward Maliq Brown went 5-of-6 from the field and had 10 points to go along with six boards.

In total, Syracuse basketball was 16-of-17 from the charity stripe. Frankly, that proved the determining factor for the Orange in conquering N.C. State.

So now the ‘Cuse will turn its attention to the Blue Devils this Saturday, beginning at 6 pm on ESPN. Then comes road games versus Clemson and Pittsburgh. Lastly, Syracuse basketball will wrap up the 2022-23 regular season on the Hill against Georgia Tech and then Wake Forest.

Look, the Orange still is nowhere near the conversation for an invite to this spring’s Big Dance. But as I opined a few days ago, beating top-25 N.C. State would be a good first step, and the ‘Cuse can cross that off its checklist.

Next up is Duke. The Dome should be rocking on Saturday night. And Syracuse basketball players should be brimming with confidence.

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