North Carolina State built a lead as large as 11 points in the second half, cut into by Ennis and Jerami Grant in getting the Orange ahead at one point, but it would trail with less than a minute to play.
Michael Gbinije drove past three defenders with just 26 seconds remaining, cutting the State lead to one. North Carolina State (21-12, 9-9) standout T.J. Warren made a pair of free throws after being fouled, and then the Orange floundered up six shots in late panic, including three deep attempts, until possession was lost on the baseline with 1.3 seconds to play. A Tyler Lewis heave across court would runoff the remaining time in the tournament opener for the conference newcomer.
"We got off to a slow offensive start and we just really could never get anything going," Jim Boeheim said. "I thought we made some good plays to get back in it, and we made two bad plays to get back out of it."
Warren did all he could, again, offensively for the Wolfpack, as this time it was enough to hold off SU - unlike the team's only other meeting this season (February 15). The senior converted nine field goals and went 10-for-12 at the free throw line to lead all scorers as usual. It was a night in which First-team All-ACC performer C.J. Fair wasn't as effective offensively as Syracuse has become accustomed to. SU's counter was second-team talent Ennis and honorable mention Grant that were.
Ennis attacked from the outside in the second half, burying a trio of three-pointers en route to a team high 21 points. Grant was assertive on the inside, drawing plenty of contact in the process, finishing with 19 points.
"We can't wait until we are down nine points to turn it on, is a problem we have been having lately," Ennis said. "We have to count on everyone to play the full 40 minutes. I think our defense will pick up if we did that.
"We have one last chance to prove everybody wrong, so we have to buckle down the last couple of days going into the tournament, and just make a run."
Tyler Lewis helped keep the Wolfpack on top in the first half, burying two of the three shots he attempted from beyond the arc. Center Jordan Vandenburg also made big plays in spots, early on, connecting on each of his three first-half attempts. It continued in half No. 2 en route to 10 points on 5-for-5 shooting. But the outside precision was produced by marksman Ralston Turner, who converted three shots from beyond the arc, banking in the final attempt after going scoreless through the first 20 minutes.
Anthony Barber was a big part of the local program holding off Syracuse, notching a half-dozen assists offensively and making key plays on the other side of the floor, most notably drawing an offensive foul on Ennis with 81 seconds to play and creating a pair of additional turnovers via the steal in 26 minutes of action.
Fair's night ended with a 3-for-16 tally on the stat sheet, with two of his made shots converted on dunks as he finished with just nine points. Grant added 10 rebounds as a compliment to his 19 points, the only player on either roster to record a double-double on this night. Ennis added seven assists against just one turnover to his line, adding in four steals and five overall rebounds in as well.
"You do a good job denying defense," Fair said of Warren. "But I thought I was getting my normal shots. They just wasn't falling.
"That was it, really."
Syracuse, which has lost five of its last seven games overall after a 25-0 start to the season, will await its NCAA Tournament fate on Selection Sunday over the weekend. Potentially landing a No. 1 or even a No. 2 seed in the Big Dance could be out of the window with Friday's defeat.
- Trevor Cooney missed some time in the first half with an ankle injury, but returned soon after.
- Grant's free throw attempts (13) and makes (9) were both a career high.
- Rakeem Christmas, who played with four fouls for the majority of the second-half, finished with a game-high three blocks.
- The game was Syracuse's first conference tournament game as a member of the ACC.