Syracuse’s season is over. N.C. State is just about to get to the best part.
Ralston Turner and Trevor Lacey each scored 19 points to lead the Wolfpack to a 71-57 win over Syracuse to close out the regular season on Saturday.
Syracuse will be at home for the postseason because of an assortment of NCAA violations over a 12-year period.
N.C. State (19-12, 10-8 ACC) is moving on to the ACC tournament next week in Greensboro and then likely the NCAA tournament.
After an up-and-down ACC schedule, the Wolfpack, which will be the No. 7 seed in the ACC tournament, finished with five wins in the final six conference games.
“We talk about that all time, being at your best at the end of the year,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. “We’ve stepped up and gotten better. I think we can still get better.”
The Wolfpack used a 27-2 run that started at the end of the first half and continued through the first 6 minutes of the second half to take control.
Syracuse (18-13, 9-9), which has had an eventful 48 hours, led 25-17 with 3 minutes, 23 seconds left in the first half after a basket by forward Tyler Roberson.
The Orange got its punishment from the NCAA on Friday, which included a loss of scholarships, a nine-game ACC suspension for coach Jim Boeheim next season and vacated wins from Boeheim’s record.
The Orange had decided to self-impose a postseason ban before Friday but the NCAA tacked on additional penalties for academic fraud and inconsistencies in its drug-testing policy that go back to 2001.
With the surge, starting at the end of the first half, N.C. State made sure Syracuse’s season ended unceremoniously. Boeheim skipped out on his post-game press conference.
N.C. State scored 16 straight points, and 19 of 21, to take a 44-27 lead at 14:23 in the second half.
Turner, who scored all of his points in the second half, buried a 3-pointer at 10:01 in the second half to give N.C. State a 55-36 lead.
Turner missed his first five shots but made six of hist last nine, including five 3s. The one from in front of the State bench sent the crowd of 18,659 into a frenzy and prompted a big smile from Turner, in his last home game.
Turner has scored 40 points in the second half of the past two games, compared two in the first half.
“He’s making the shots at the right time,” Lacey said. “That’s all that matters.”
Syracuse’s zone gave N.C. State issues in the first half but point guard Cat Barber was able to speed the Wolfpack’s offense up in the second half.
Barber had six assists, all but one in the second half, and finished with 10 points.
“The ball stuck in our hands a little bit too long in the first half,” Gottfried said. “We just didn’t move it too sharply. We were just so much more aggressive (in the second half).”
Syracuse did cut the Wolfpack’s 19-point lead down to single digits, 57-48 with a Michael Gbinije jumper at 4:17, but could not get any closer.
By the time Turner checked out, with 2:12 left, and senior Staats Battle, the celebration was on. Battle then punctuated the win with a 3-pointer from the right wing.
For N.C. State, there have been dark moments this season — a 16-point home loss to Cincinnati, the painful close home losses against Notre Dame and Virginia and last Saturday’s no-show at Boston College, but the postseason future suddenly looks bright.
“Now we’re clicking,” Lacey said. “We have to keep it going and make sure it carries over.”
Senior Staats Battle, a walk-on until this season, hit his first shot, a 3-pointer. In his last home game, Battle, who went to Broughton, scored his first points in an ACC game.
There was extra attention on Syracuse for its NCAA problems on Friday and there were extra media members there on Saturday to talk with hall-of-fame coach Jim Boeheim. But Boeheim skipped out on the post-game press conference, issuing a statement through the school’s public relations department instead.