Wolfpack strengthens NCAA case by winning bubble battle with Syracuse

Markell Johnson's late 3-pointer helps NC State to score a big road victory to break a two-game losing streak

Allerik Freeman beats Syracuse's Bourama Sidibe to the rim for a basket during NC State's win at the Carrier Dome on Wednesday. (Mark Konezny / USA TODAY Sports)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — In a game featuring two ACC teams squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble, NC State created some separation with a hard-fought 74-70 victory over Syracuse on Wednesday night before 21,125 fans at the Carrier Dome.

Down 70-62 with under three minutes remaining, the Orange tied the score with an 8-0 run that included a pair of 3-pointers by Oshae Brissett. However, Markell Johnson sank a trey from the top of the key with 35 seconds remaining to give the Wolfpack a 73-70 lead.

After Brissett missed a 3-point try and NC State’s Lavar Batts Jr. missed the front end of a one-and-one, Syracuse’s Frank Howard missed a pair of free throws. The Wolfpack’s Omer Yurtseven then clinched the win by making one of two foul shots.

NC State improved to 17-9 overall, 7-6 in the ACC, while the Orange dropped to 17-9, 6-7. Coach Kevin Keatts’ Wolfpack snapped a two-game losing streak, while Syracuse lost for just the fourth time in 17 games at home this season.

Allerik Freeman led the Wolfpack with 17 points, Johnson had 16 and reserve guard Sam Hunt, who entered the game averaging 4.6 points per contest, scored 14 by shooting 4-for-6 from 3-point range.

Brissett led Syracuse with 25 points, while Tyus Battle scored 17 and Howard notched 16.

With Syracuse trailing 37-32, Brissett scored nine consecutive points for the Orange to spark a 15-4 run that gave Syracuse a 47-41 lead. Braxton Beverly answered with a 3-pointer, and Johnson’s dunk moved the Wolfpack within 47-46.

After Syracuse boosted its lead back to 54-48, Hunt’s 3-pointer triggered an 14-4 Wolfpack run that also included Freeman’s 3-point play, another Hunt trey and a Freeman 3-pointer that moved NC State ahead 62-58 with about six minutes remaining.

Hunt’s third and fourth 3-pointers of the second half increased the Wolfpack’s advantage to 70-62 with about three minutes remaining.

In a sloppy first half that included 10 turnovers by each team and 20 personal fouls (12 by NC State), the Wolfpack went on a 13-2 run late in the half and grabbed a 35-32 lead at the break.