NC State just finished its first week in the Top 25 since 2019.
After a loss to a top-10 team (Virginia) and a blowout of a struggling squad (Boston College), the 22nd-ranked Wolfpack next face a team somewhere in between when they travel to Syracuse on Tuesday in an Atlantic Coast Conference contest.
NC State (20-6, 10-5 ACC) has won nine of its last 11 games, including Saturday’s 30-point rout at Boston College. Terquavion Smith reached 1,000 career points as part of a 17-point performance, but he did not even realize until after the game that he had achieved the milestone.
“He scores so much, he doesn’t even worry about how many points. I mean, as far as he knows, he might have had 1,000 six games ago,” coach Kevin Keatts said. “But you’re talking about a good kid who has given everything he could to NC State.”
Jarkel Joiner led the Wolfpack with 26 points after struggling to the tune of 10 combined points on 3-of-20 shooting over his previous two contests.
“We know what Jarkel is capable of,” Keatts said. “It was so good to see him bounce back.”
DJ Burns Jr., who had 18 points and 10 rebounds against the Eagles, is another player Syracuse (15-10, 8-6) will have to keep an eye on Tuesday. The Orange gave up a double-double to Florida State’s Matthew Cleveland (19 points, 12 boards) on Wednesday but held on to secure a 76-67 defeat, thanks in part to their own double-double machine.
Jesse Edwards registered 18 points and 12 rebounds for Syracuse, raising his season averages to 14.2 points and 10.2 rebounds. The Orange center had not posted a double-double in any of his previous five games.
“In games and in life, you just have to keep plugging away,” coach Jim Boeheim said.
That mindset also applies to freshman guard Judah Mintz, who had two points in the first half against Florida State before erupting for 14 after intermission. He has registered double-digit points in 16 of the last 17 games.
“He’s just as good as anybody getting to the basket,” Boeheim said.
Edwards, Mintz and Joe Girard — who had a team-high 26 points against the Seminoles — figure to be the focus of the NC State defensive game plan.
Chris Bell added 10 points versus Florida State, but the Syracuse bench totaled just two points and five turnovers in 35 combined minutes. Girard finished with five 3-pointers in eight attempts — a welcome sight after shooting 3 of 14 from outside the arc over his previous three affairs.
“Joe was really good,” Boeheim said. “We need Joe to play like that. He was really good tonight, a big difference-maker out there.”
Syracuse won last season’s matchup 89-82 as all five starters scored in double figures, including Edwards (19 points on 8-of-9 shooting) and Girard (18 points, 10 assists). Smith scored a game-high 25 points on seven 3-pointers for the Wolfpack.
The Orange have won four straight meetings in the series. –Field Level Media