Greensboro, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - T.J. Warren and North Carolina State got its revenge against Syracuse, with the conference Player of the Year depositing 28 points to lead the Wolfpack to a profile-building 66-63 win over the 11th-ranked Orange in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament.
Nearly a month after dropping a 56-55 heartbreaker to the then-unbeaten Orange in the Carrier Dome, a Wolfpack team squarely on the NCAA bubble enhanced their credentials and advanced to a third straight ACC semifinal behind a sound defensive effort and clutch shooting down the stretch.
Ralston Turner's 3-pointer with 2:28 remaining snapped a 59-59 tie, and N.C. State (21-12) survived a frantic sequence in the final seconds in which Syracuse missed six consecutive shots on its last possession.
Warren added eight rebounds and Jordan Vanderberg scored 10 points for the seventh-seeded Wolfpack, who will face seventh-ranked Duke in Saturday's semis. The No. 3 seed Blue Devils moved on with a 63-62 decision over Clemson in Friday's last quarterfinal.
"I don't know if I could be more proud of a group than I am of my team," said Wolfpack head coach Mark Gottfried. "Obviously, Syracuse is a great team. They're so long and athletic and can score the ball. Their zone gives you so many problems, but our guys just seemed to stay the course, not get frustrated, just stay with it and stay with it. And we had answers because of our resiliency."
Playing its first-ever conference tournament game other than the Big East, Syracuse (27-5) had its fate sealed by poor shooting. The Orange made good on just 32.7 percent of its field goal attempts in its fifth defeat in seven outings since beginning the season 25-0.
"I think we shot the ball badly and it's hard to recover when you're not shooting the ball well," Orange head coach Jim Boeheim remarked. "It's very difficult to win."
Tyler Ennis nearly led the Orange back from a 10-point deficit in the second half, netting 15 of his 21 points after the break while dishing out seven assists. Jerami Grant finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds in the loss.
Syracuse briefly overcame its offensive woes by excelling on the defensive end while putting together a 12-2 run to claim a 59-57 lead with under four minutes left. After a pair of Anthony Barber free throws drew the Wolfpack even, Turner banked in a long three off the glass to break the deadlock with 2:28 left.
N.C. State still led by three entering the final minute, but the Orange's Rakeem Christmas altered Barber's shot while driving to the hoop and Michael Gbinije scored on the other end to cut Syracuse's deficit to 64-63 with 26.4 seconds to go. Warren then made both free throws after being immediately sent to the line, setting the stage for the wild finish.
Ennis misfired from inside the arc and Grant couldn't finish in close after grabbing the rebound, but Syracuse kept maintaining possession and got off four more attempts -- two from Trevor Cooney and one each from Ennis and C.J. Fair -- from 3-point range.
All missed the mark, with Cooney's desperation heave with time winding down coming up an air-ball and landing out of bounds to seal the outcome.
"I was saying to myself, 'can we just get a rebound, just somebody grab the ball?," Gottfried said. "We escaped on that one, obviously, right there. But, you know, sometimes those kind of things balance out in life. You know, you have a tough one earlier in the year where we didn't finish the game. Today, maybe fate was on your side on that last possession."
The Wolfpack appeared on their way to an easier victory after embarking on a 13-3 tear that snapped a 37-37 deadlock early in the second half. Turner began the surge with a trey and Warren ended it with a midrange jumper that staked N.C. State to a 50-40 lead with 11 minutes left.
A 7-2 spurt by the Orange quickly trimmed the margin to five. Turner then drained another three to shortly reverse the momentum, though Syracuse scored the next seven points to pull within 55-54 with 5:23 remaining on Christmas' dunk off a Grant feed.
N.C. State didn't make a basket for over five minutes after Turner's aforementioned trey, allowing Syracuse to continue move ahead for the first time since three minutes were left in the opening half. Three straight trips to the foul line resulted in five straight Orange points, with Fair going 1- of-2 from the stripe to put Syracuse up by a 59-57 count with 3:41 to play.
"I thought we really made some unbelievable steals to get back in it," Boeheim said. They had the game pretty much under control. We made a couple of really good steals in our traps and got down and gave ourselves an opportunity to win the game. But we made some bad plays down the stretch."
Both teams struggled to shoot the ball for the majority of the opening half, with N.C. State missing 12 of its first 14 attempts and the Orange starting out a cold 3-of-18 from the field. The Wolfpack began to find some success against Syracuse's patented zone over the latter stages of the period, however, to take a slim lead at the break.
Tyler Lewis knocked down an open look from 3-point range with 2:05 left in the half and Warren hit a jumper on the Wolfpack's next possession, with the basket giving N.C. State a 27-23 edge entering the final minute.
The Wolfpack entered the intermission with a 28-25 advantage, having limited the Orange to a 25.9 percent shooting percentage for the first half.
Fair, Syracuse's leading scorer on the season, was held to nine points on 3- of-16 shooting, while Cooney managed just five while going 1-of-6 on 3-point tries ... The Orange outrebounded N.C. State by a 36-33 margin, marking only the second time this season they lost when winning the battle on the glass ... Warren finished with 23 points in the Wolfpack's narrow loss at the Carrier Dome on Feb. 15.