The Syracuse Orange (17-9, 6-7) did not help their chances of making the NCAA Tournament on Wednesday night, falling 74-70 to the NC State Wolfpack (17-9, 7-6) in the Carrier Dome.
In last year's contest, Syracuse's John Gillon poured in a historic 43 points including a buzzer-beater at the end of regulation, setting Syracuse up for a 100-93 overtime victory at the PNC Arena. This year's result was not as uplifting.
The Orange were coming off a much-needed win against Wake Forest on Sunday, taking care of the Demon Deacons 78-70 for their second consecutive victory and showing some signs of life as their conference schedule began to intensify.
Meanwhile, the NC State Wolfpack entered the contest having lost their last two, positioning Syracuse for a third straight win over another team battling for one of the coveted spots on the elusive tournament bubble.
However, Syracuse turnovers, faltering defense, and overall sloppy play down the stretch handed the Wolfpack the crucial victory instead.
The Orange were able to survive the first half for the most part, escaping down only 35-32 despite ten first-half turnovers. Ending with 15 turnovers, the Orange were never able to find their rhythm on either end of the floor. They had seven total in their win over Wake Forest on Sunday.
The Wolfpack offense came to life late in the first half as they jumped out to a 30-26 lead on the heels of a 10-0 run, but that only marked the beginning of the defensive struggles for the Orange. In the second half, the Wolfpack posted a staggering 63 percent shooting percentage, including 7-13 from deep, a polar opposite from their 48 percent first half shooting performance.
Contrary to recent performances, the Syracuse offense was not the biggest issue in the loss. The team posted a 52.3 shooting percentage, up significantly from their 42.6 percent mark on the season.
Freshman forward Oshae Brissett matched his career high with 25 points on 8-13 (4-7) shooting, and added seven rebounds in his futile offensive showcase. Guards Tyus Battle and Frank Howard contributed with 17 and 16 points, respectively, as the scoring production from Syracuse's three-headed monster kept this game competitive throughout.
Down 70-67 with under a minute remaining, Brissett added an exclamation point to his breakout evening with a dagger three that tied the game at 70 with time winding down, injecting the Carrier Dome with energy in the process. On the other end, NC State point guard Markelle Johnson, who foiled a large part of Tyus Battle's offense on the night, responded instantly with a straightaway three off a high screen that silenced the noise and put the Wolfpack ahead for good, 73-70.
Similar to the end of their last contest, a barrage of three-pointers forced this game out of Syracuse's control, as NC State's Sam Hunt added two of his six made threes with under six minutes left in regulation.
Looking ahead, Syracuse will enter a five-game gauntlet to finish off the regular season, with games against North Carolina and at Duke in two of their next three. This loss cripples the already shaky resume of the Orange, but with ranked opponents in three of their last five games, they have every opportunity to get back on the bubble.
The Orange will travel to Coral Gables in a matchup at Miami this Saturday.