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SYRACUSE, N.Y. – North Carolina State pushed No. 1 Syracuse all the way to the brink of its first loss.
A simple trap in the left corner in the closing seconds turned into a disaster for the Wolfpack, and Syracuse escaped with a 56-55 victory on C.J. Fair's layup with 6.7 seconds left Saturday night.
"We turned the ball over and were still in position to win," North Carolina State coach Mark Gottfried said. "We've got to look in the mirror at ourselves, but I'm proud of our guys. They played their hearts out. We didn't come up here just to play good and feel nice. We came to win and didn't get it done."
The start of the game was pushed back four hours because of a snowstorm that wreaked havoc along the eastern seaboard. N.C. State did not land in Syracuse until Saturday afternoon. The team's Twitter account announced the Wolfpack's arrival at 3:07 p.m., seven minutes later than the original scheduled tip-off.
The game turned out to be worth the wait, tight all the way through a frantic finish full of missed opportunities.
"They're terrific," Gottfried said. "Obviously, when you have a year like they're having, when you're undefeated you're going to have some close ones, some not-so-close ones. We just tried to prepare for them as best we could and I thought our guys did a great job."
Rakeem Christmas started the winning sequence with a steal off the corner trap, and Fair finished it with a layup in transition.
"We got out of it by making a good play at the end," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "We were able to make some good plays finally at the end, and one big play."
Ralston Turner missed a 3 for N.C. State with 2:45 left with Syracuse clinging to a one-point lead, and then Fair was off on a hook driving across the lane. After N.C. State's Anthony Barber hit the side of the backboard with a baseline jumper, Jerami Grant missed a spinning drive in the lane for Syracuse.
Syracuse freshman Tyler Ennis, so cool and collected all year, then showed he's human, fouling Turner while shooting a 3, and he made all three free throws to give the Wolfpack a 55-53 lead with 62 seconds left.
Fair sank 1 of 2 foul shots with 41.4 seconds remaining and N.C. State's Desmond Lee then lost the ball out of bounds when he was double-teamed at midcourt.
Ennis negated that turnover with a charge with 14.7 seconds left, but the Wolfpack couldn't close it out.
N.C. State star T.J. Warren was fouled in the back by Trevor Cooney and his shot went in, but the basket was waved off. The referees ruled the infraction occurred before the shot, forcing the Wolfpack to inbound the ball and setting up the winning trap in the corner.
"That should have counted," Gottfried said. "That was a made basket to put us up three with T.J. going to the line to go up four. That changed things."
Christmas had 14 points and set career highs with 12 rebounds and seven blocks as Syracuse earned its 10th single-digit win despite shooting 35.2 percent. Grant had 12 points and 14 rebounds, and Fair scored 11 points on 5-of-16 shooting.
"We keep our composure all the time," Christmas said. "We don't let anything get to us."
After Fair's winning layup, Warren missed from the top of the key on one last try for N.C. State. Warren finished with 23 points, Kyle Washington had 14 and Turner 13 for the Wolfpack.
Despite its torrid season, Syracuse (25-0, 12-0) is clinging to a half-game lead over Virginia in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Orange's start is the third-best in ACC history, behind only North Carolina State (27-0) in 1973 and North Carolina (32-0) in 1957.
North Carolina State (16-9, 6-6) was looking for its seventh win over the nation's No. 1 team. It got its last one just over a year ago, beating Duke 84-76.
The Wolfpack, who had won five of six, shot 39 percent (22 of 56) from the field.
"I started to think we were about to get out of here with a win," Turner said. "We still had possession. I thought we could hold it and they had to foul us. But give credit to them, they made a play at the end."
Syracuse was coming off a dramatic last-second victory at No. 25 Pittsburgh on Wednesday night. Ennis hit a 3-pointer from 35 feet as time expired to lift the Orange to a 58-56 road win.
But the hostile Carrier Dome crowd of 31,572 didn't seem to faze the Wolfpack, who used Warren's big effort to hang right with Syracuse. He scored six straight points to start the second half and Washington's hook in the lane gave N.C. State a 34-30 lead after the teams left the court deadlocked at 26-26 at halftime.
It was Syracuse's fourth crowd of more than 30,000 this season. That's the most in any single season since Syracuse had six Carrier Dome crowds of more than 30,000 in 1990-91.