NC State, Dennis Smith Jr. make history just not the kind they want

Despite Smith finishing with his second triple-double of the season, the Wolfpack comes up short against Syracuse in overtime

Rob Kinnan—X02835
Feb 1

Prior to this year, no NC State player had ever recorded a triple-double against an ACC opponent. In ACC history, no player had ever recorded two triple-doubles against a conference opponent.Dennis Smith Jr. now has two in his last five home games. Ultimately, the attempt at the triple-double spurned a comeback for Syracuse that would send the game into overtime. Smith then became the first NC State player to finish with a triple-double in a loss.The freshman phenom posted his second career triple-double — the third in NC State history — with 13 points, 11 rebounds and 15 assists in a 100-93 overtime loss to Syracuse at PNC Arena. The Wolfpack’s loss was its third in the last four at home and dropped it to 3-7 in ACC play.”Dennis gets a triple-double, it’s disappointing to lose a game like that,” head coach Mark Gottfried said. “It was his second triple-double and he was just fantastic.”Smith wasn’t the only player to have a huge night for NC State on Wednesday, with Maverick Rowan finishing with a career-high 31 points on eight 3-pointers. Rowan was clutch when the Wolfpack needed him, but Smith was the only player Wolfpack fans were watching midway through the second half.Sitting at 10 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds, Smith could feel the triple-double was coming. Rather than stepping out to the perimeter to guard the three, the freshman rushed to the basket on nearly every shot to pick up the board.With Smith playing inside, Syracuse responded with 12-0 run on four straight 3-pointers to bring the lead within one point at 77-76 before Gottfried called a timeout. Smith did get the triple-double following the timeout on a putback layup, but the damage was already done.Cuse curtailed that run into a 23-10 frenzy of scoring over the final 6:40 in regulation to send the game into overtime.Smith didn’t come out to speak with the media, but Abdul-Malik Abu did discuss what took place during the Syracuse run.”I couldn’t really see it, because I wasn’t focused on [Smith]. But if that’s the case, then that’s tough,” Abu said. “Triple-doubles are big. Everybody wants one. I don’t personally know if that was the case, but if that’s what you saw then maybe it’s something we have to look at.”I know he gave it his all, so that’s a tough one.”It was really a “pick your poison” type of situation for NC State’s loss. The Wolfpack shot 11 of 20 from the free-throw line while Syracuse finished 21 of 23. Smith camping under the basket looking for his 10th rebound to complete the triple-double left the perimeter open for a 12-0 Cuse run.Then there was the ultimate nail in the coffin. With the game tied up at 84, Maverick Rowan hit his eighth 3-pointer of the night to take an 87-84 lead with 10 seconds remaining. Cuse graduate transfer John Gillon — who averages 8.9 points per game and came in with 12 total 3-pointers in ACC play in nine games — hit a stepback 3-pointer for his ninth of the night with 1.8 seconds left.Gillon’s shot sent the game into overtime, but it could have been prevented. Abdul-Malik Abu said the thought of fouling before Gillon pulled up — but only after the play was over.”I think in retrospect anybody can say that. Even I thought of it afterward,” Abu explained, “but when you’re playing live, you’re instinct isn’t to foul somebody. You know what I’m saying? Maybe after a timeout we could have thought of it. … It’s tough to look back and think like that, but it’s part of the game.”Looking back on the play, Gottfried said he would have taken a stepback three from a normally streaky shooter like Gillon to close out the game again.”In a flurry like that — Mav[erick Rowan] hits a three, there is no timeout — and they’re coming full speed ahead on you like that,” Gottfried said. “The game [Gillon] had today changes it, but yesterday if you would have asked me if I’d have taken a fading three-point shot from Gillon at the buzzer, I’d have probably taken my chances.”Syracuse then responded with a 13-6 overtime period to secure its first road win of the season. NC State now heads into a ridiculously tough stretch with games against Miami, Florida State, UNC and Notre Dame over the next five matchups.NC State couldn’t afford a loss, but it had several chances to come away with a win. Now, with time running out for any semblance of a turnaround, the Pack has to swallow a massive collapse on a historic night for Smith. That’s going to be hard to top.