Caulton Tudor

Tudor: Syracuse makes Wolfpack pay

Staff WriterDecember 18, 2011 

— They didn't get to storm the basketball court in the RBC Center Saturday night.

Instead, N.C. State fans got to witness a perfect storm of Wolfpack turnovers against a top-ranked Syracuse team that makes a habit of turning turnovers into victories.

It was the very trip wire State coach Mark Gottfried discussed Friday and then experienced on game day.

"Syracuse makes you pay for turnovers more than almost any team you'll see," the first-year Pack coach said.

"I thought some of the turnovers late in the game were the result of frustration and impatience, though. But we had too many."

The ball-handling problems that had troubled State (6-4) in recent games against N.C. Central, Stanford and Indiana mushroomed into a full-blown catastrophe against Syracuse's relentless 2-3 zone defense.

The end result was an 88-72 win by the Orange (11-0) that took away the Pack's last chance to notch another nationally significant victory before beginning ACC play on Jan. 8 against Maryland.

If there was a bright side for the Pack's players, it was in the knowledge that they won't have to face an ACC team with more depth, versatility and offensive options than the Orange.

Syracuse's reserves outscored State 46-4. That depth, coupled with 19 Pack turnovers, was more than enough to erase two impressive State scoring runs at the start of each half.

"They're a good team," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said of State. "I thought they were good last year, and they're better now. They're going to win a lot of games.

"I hate watching tape, but I'd watched a lot of N.C. State. We knew this would be a difficult game, and it was."

Much was made of the fact that the trip to Raleigh was the first game outside of New York state this season for SU. Boeheim said that wasn't a factor in his mind, even though State's crowd was large and loud.

"If you're a good team, you're going to play well on the road. If you're a bad team, you're going to play bad," he said.

Five SU players scored in double figures, led by Dion Waiters' 22 and Kris Joseph's 21. Team leader Scoop Jardine was in for only 29 minutes, but had 16 points, four rebounds and three assists.

"That team might be playing on Monday night in April (NCAA title game, April 2, New Orleans)," Gottfried said.

"They were good on tape and better in person."

Although Syracuse will lose a game or two - maybe more - in Big East play, there's no reason at the moment to believe the Orange won't be an NCAA No. 1 or 2 seed, meaning Boeheim's team could be in Boston for regional semifinal play.

The other regional semifinals/finals locations will be Phoenix, St. Louis and Atlanta.

State, which now has to visit St. Bonaventure on Tuesday, just wants to do enough to get an NCAA bid, no matter where.

But for that goal to be reached, Gottfried and his staff will need more depth and fewer errors.

The Pack got 25 points from C.J. Williams and 13 from C.J. Leslie. But Leslie had leg cramps throughout the second half, and State doesn't yet have the numbers to counter injuries and foul trouble.

"We need to develop more depth," Gottfried said. "And it's not just offensive help. We need to develop more defensive help, too. But we're getting better.

"I told our guys it's not how you finish in December. It's how you finish in February, and there are a lot of games left."

Tudor: 919-829-8946

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