RALEIGH — N.C. State took 20th-ranked Syracuse’s best shot and gave it right back, rallying from a 10-point second-half deficit to defeat the ACC newcomers 67-61 Sunday in the conference opener for both teams.
The victory is N.C. State’s eighth straight and its second this season over a ranked team (LSU).
“It’s a great feeling,” said forward Kody Burke, who scored a game-high 19 points. “Coach (Wes) Moore told us before the game that everybody is 0-0 now and to start off with a (conference) win couldn’t be any better.”
The Wolfpack trailed 36-32 entering the second half, which featured a series of runs.
Syracuse scored six straight points to build its biggest lead, 45-35, with 13 minutes, 31 seconds left.
But the Wolfpack (14-1) struck right back with an 8-0 run, led by Burke’s and freshman guard Miah Spencer’s 3-point shooting.
Brianna Butler hit two free throws to stop the bleeding before former Millbrook High standout Briana Day scored four of Syracuse’s next six points to help the Orange (11-3) rebuild its lead to 55-46 with 9:10 to play.
The turning point for the Orange came moments later, when team scoring leader Brittney Sykes was called for her fourth foul with 8:06 remaining.
“Brittney’s fourth foul took us out of our offense,” Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman said. “But give them credit, they did a great job of staying in the game. They made a run every time we got up. That’s one tough basketball team.”
The Wolfpack used Sykes’ absence and center Markeisha Gatling’s bruising inside presence to turn a nine-point deficit into a one-point lead with five minutes remaining. Gatling, who recorded her second double-double of the season – 14 points and 15 rebounds (12 offensive) – scored seven of the 10 points.
Butler’s 3 gave the Orange a two-point lead before Burke put the Wolfpack ahead by one with a three-point play. Another 3 by Butler gave Syracuse its last lead at the 2:12 mark.
Spencer hit a layup and two free throws to put the Wolfpack ahead 63-61. Guard Len’Nique Brown grabbed one of her biggest rebounds of the season off a missed free throw and was fouled with 22 seconds left. After Brown made both free throws, Myisha Goodwin-Coleman stole the ball and hit two more free throws to seal the victory.
Four Wolfpack finished in double figures. Spencer and Krystal Barrett added 12 and 10 points, respectively.
“Miah Spencer grew up in the second half,” said Moore, whose team is off to its best start since the 1999-2000 season. “I couldn’t be more prouder of the team. It would have been easy for them to say it’s not our day, but they kept fighting.”
The game was a homecoming for twins Briana and Bria Day. Briana played 16 minutes and scored seven points. Bria was scoreless with two rebounds and an assist in two minutes.