North Carolina State's Dennis Smith Jr. dribbles around Syracuse's Taurean Thompson as Syracuse's Tyus Battle (25) watches during the second half of Wednesday's game in Raleigh. Despite Smith's triple-double, Syracuse won 100-93. AP
By Rob McLamb
Special to the Times
There is a thin line between success and failure in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Nine days after a stunning win at Duke, two straight losses have sent N.C. State spiraling down. The Wolfpack’s overtime defeat at home to Syracuse on Wednesday, coming after the Orange rallied from a 16-point deficit late, drops State to 14-9 overall and only 3-7 in ACC play.
Duke finished with 82 points. If John Gillon’s late 3-pointer missed, the Orange would have lost despite scoring 84 points. For all of the banter about N.C. State’s defensive liabilities, it boils down to a few plays between where the Pack is now and the potential to have a better foothold in its quest for a fifth NCAA Tournament bid in six seasons.
Gillon did not miss. He hit the big shot late and almost every other shot he took. A graduate transfer who entered the game averaging 8.9 points per contest inexplicably finished with a PNC Arena-record 41 and N.C. State may pay dearly for his once-in-a-lifetime performance.
It would take near perfection to obscure Maverick Rowan’s career-high 31 points and Dennis Smith Jr. becoming the first player in school history to post two triple-doubles, but Gillon pulled off the feat.
“Dennis gets a triple-double,” N.C. State head coach Mark Gottfried said. “It is disappointing to lose a game when you play like that. His second triple-double — it was just terrific — and then Maverick, I thought, just made some huge shots for our team. Just huge shots.
“You have got to give Syracuse credit. This guy Gillon, he made 12 3-point shots coming into this game in the league — I think in nine games. Two or three or four of them were two or three feet behind the 3-point line. They are not right on the line. The guy played terrific.”
NO MORE SLIP-UPS
The Wolfpack probably cannot afford to have any more slip ups. With eight games left in the regular season and only one promised in the ACC Tournament, N.C. State has to get to work.
Next up for the Pack is a Saturday home game versus Miami, which cruised past State 81-63 on Dec. 31 in the ACC opener for both schools. While time is dwindling and there are no respites on the schedule, the Wolfpack remains confident it can make a surge.
“I feel like every situation is a must win,” Abdul-Malik Abu said. “We don’t go into any game feeling that we need to win this more than the last one. We are not in panic mode. We still believe in ourselves. We just have got to do what we have to do. Just go out there and play hard.”
Here’s a look at the 2017 recruiting class for N.C. State football:
• Louis Acceus--LB, 6-0, 200, Spring Valley, NY, St. Joseph Regional HS
• Danny Blakeman--LB, 6-2, 227, Raleigh, NC, Leesville Road HS
• Adam Boselli--TE, 6-5, 220, Ponte Vedra, Fla., Episcopal HS
• Kevince Brown--DE, 6-6, 242, Winter Park, Fla., Winter Park HS
• Erin Collins--RB, 6-1, 200, Plant City, Fla., Armwood HS