Running with Wolves: N.C. State comes to Carrier Dome as break from grind-it-out ACC gameplay

first_imgEach time James Robinson dribbled, the Syracuse zone shifted slightly. Slide to the left. Slide to the right.Tyler Ennis and Trevor Cooney shuffled by the 3-point line while Pittsburgh forward Talib Zanna zipped in and out of the high post.This went on for 25 seconds before Robinson flicked a chest pass to Lamar Patterson on the right wing before he made a 3-pointer with 16:33 left in the second half of Syracuse’s 58-56 win over the Panthers on Wednesday.The strategy was the same on almost every possession. Sometimes the ball would go in to Zanna for a quick high-low look. Other times Robinson would look to penetrate or pass to another teammate.But the clock drainage was consistent.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“We tried to be patient,” Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said, “but obviously we weren’t able to convert enough baskets down the stretch.”Pitt became the next in a long line of Atlantic Coast Conference opponents to slow-play SU. But on Saturday, the No. 1 Orange (24-0, 11-0 Atlantic Coast) faces a change-of-pace opponent in North Carolina State (16-8, 6-5) at 3 p.m. in the Carrier Dome. The Wolfpack ranks fourth in the conference in possessions per game and supplements a faster speed of play with T.J. Warren, who leads the ACC in scoring and usage rate.It’s a style of play the Orange has seen little of this season. Aside from giving up 89 points to then-No. 17 Duke, SU hasn’t allowed a conference opponent to score 60 points this season. The Orange holds opponents to 58.3 points per game while scoring 64 in ACC play.Players have grown to expect playing the full 35 seconds on defense.“We just take it game by game,” SU point guard Tyler Ennis said.Syracuse has won six games while scoring fewer than 60 points this season. The last time the Orange won that many contests despite failing to hit the 60-point mark was in the 1946-47 season.But the transition threats Syracuse leaned on only as recently as four years ago have been replaced.Now there are consistent closers. This team makes the most of its final possessions — as evidenced by scoring on its last four possessions against Pitt on Wednesday.“Being down six is difficult,” SU head coach Jim Boeheim said of the score before that run, “because they’re going to take 35 seconds.”The one issue that has plagued and compounded the effect of other teams running the clock on offense is the Orange’s subpar defensive rebounding. Extra possessions become more and more valuable the less of them there are.The Panthers grabbed 16 offensive rebounds, but had just 15 second-chance points. They had a tip-in chance on an offensive set around the two-minute mark, but were unable to put away the likely win-clinching shot.“That’s the one thing we wanted to do, and we didn’t do it very well,” Boeheim said.Led by Warren, the conference’s leading scorer, N.C. State presents a new challenge.The Wolfpack plays more up-tempo, and it shows with four players averaging double figures. It could be an adjustment for the Orange, but the faster-paced game could also be favorable.It might mean less standing in place, but it should mean more points, too.Said Dixon: “You are not going to get good shots against this defense early in the shot clock.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on February 14, 2014 at 12:59 am Contact Stephen: sebail01@syr.edu | @Stephen_Bailey1last_img read more