The Carrier Dome's cardiac kids

SU escaped with another narrow victory in the Carrier Dome against N.C. State Saturday night.

The old saying in sports is no matter how arduous a task or how ugly it is, a win is a win, even if you’re a top ten college basketball team. The eighth ranked Syracuse Orange have played in a few tightly-contested games more than head coach Jim Boeheim’s liking. They continued their cardiac-kid style of play with a 65-59 victory over North Carolina State Saturday night at the Carrier Dome.

Photo: Alex Pines

The win brings the Orange record to 8-0, with Big East conference play looming. Boeheim is still looking for a balanced attack, crediting his team’s defense for most of this season’s victories.

“The main problem is our offense,” Boeheim said. “You gotta be able to make some shots out there. We played good defense. At least we’re proving we can win a close game. It could have gotten away. We’ll play better.”

SU got off to a promising start, giving images of an all-start game with three crowd-raising dunks early on. Two came from Kris Joseph, who slammed home a missed shot by Rick Jackson. His other highlight came from a one handed full court outlet pass from Jackson, ending up with Brandon Triche connecting with him for a one-handed alley oop dunk to make it a 21-13 game.

The first half aerial display by Joseph would be his only real mark on the game. He finished with eight points and five rebounds. The junior forward shot three of twelve from the field.

“He’s trying too hard,” Boeheim said. “He’s missing a shot and hanging his head. He’s gotta play better.”

Joseph noticed his mental struggles as well.

“Basketball is mental,” he said. “So, if I miss a shot, I’m going to be down on myself sometimes. I can’t worry about a missed shot. I’m just going to have to work on that a little more and know that there is gonna be more shots to come.”

The Wolfpack, who were coming off an 87-48 loss to Wisconsin on Wednesday, would make it an interesting night. They were patient against the vaunted 2-3 zone. The main beneficiary was 6-foot-7 sophomore forward Scott Wood. He connected on four of his seven first half shots from beyond the arc. None were more frustrating for the Orange than his two straight, pulling the visitors within three points at 31-28 midway through the half.

This was also when the SU offense hit a little cold spell, which continued in the opening minutes of the second half. Fans had to wait almost six minutes to sit back in their seats after Scoop Jardine’s driving lay up put the first points on the board for SU. Meanwhile, the Wolfpack went on an 8-2 run to take a 44-42 lead.

North Carolina State reached their highest lead at 53-47, much to the dismay of the Dome crowd. SU’s defense was called on to full court press, causing two consecutive turnovers, resulting in a score by Jardine. A put back by Jackson allowed SU to regain the lead at 57-56.

With less than six minutes to play, it came down to foul shooting for SU. Up 60-59, they nailed five shots from the charity stripe and made a concise effort to clamp down on sharp shooter Wood.

Some may be nervous with these early close calls, but Joseph feels this can be beneficial in the long run.

“Real important,” he said. “It gets us ready for down the line where we’re playing a Pittsburgh or a Louisville and we’re in a tight game situation. We’ll be able to pull them out. We’ve been here many times. I think every one of our games so far besides Cornell have been tight ones and that’s gonna help us throughout the rest of the year.”

Jardine led SU with 23 points. Jackson was second, scoring 16. He grabbed 8 rebounds. Despite his high mark, Jardine struggled from the field, going seven of twenty-one. He says offense will come as long as they are clamping down on defense.

“I was being over aggressive” Jardine explained. “No matter how it is on the offensive end, we still gonna have to play defense. Sometimes we let our offense dictate our defense and that’s why we tend to go down so much in the second half. So if our defense stays there, we’re going to have a chance to win games because it gets us out in transition.”

Big test up next for Orange

The Orange face perhaps their toughest game of the year on Tuesday. The “Mecca of Basketball”, Madison Square Garden will be the venue for the Jimmy V Classic as they tip-off against sixth ranked Michigan State.

After losing to number one Duke 84-79 on Wednesday, the Spartans will come to New York off a 74-39 win against Bowling Green.

“They’re a great team,” Joseph said. “It’s gonna be a good test for us. A lot of these games were great tests, but this is gonna be the realest test we’ve had. It’s gonna be a good test to show where we meaure up.”

Jardine is excited to face the stiff competition.

“They’ve been together for a long time” he said.“They’re a great program where they went to the Final Four two years in a row. This is a great test for us. This is probably the best team we’re gonna face all year.”

The game is at 9 pm on ESPN. 

C.J. Fair defends against and inbound pass from NC State's Scott Wood. (Photo: Alex Pines)

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