NC State gets a shot at No. 1 Syracuse

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 17, 2011
C.J. Williams and his North Carolina State teammates were already excited about getting highly ranked Syracuse in front of a rowdy red-clad crowd. Having the Orange rise to No. 1 in time for Saturday's game only adds to that buzz. ''Any time you play a top-five team, it's a great opportunity for you to make a statement,'' Williams said Friday. ''And that's what we're looking to do. We're looking to show that we're not just a team that's going to compete with you.'' It's hardly the first time N.C. State (6-3) has faced the nation's top-ranked team at home. After all, Atlantic Coast Conference rivals Duke and North Carolina are within a 30-minute drive of campus and have brought the No. 1 ranking here 11 times. But this is only the second time a nonconference No. 1 will play in Raleigh. The other time came when Notre Dame edged the Wolfpack 53-52 in February 1979. First-year coach Mark Gottfried said ''it seems like there's a lot of pep in the step'' from his players in practice leading up to this one. ''One thing I've always tried to do is understand throughout a 27- to 30-game schedule, you've got to treat them all the same,'' Gottfried said. ''Your approach has to be the same. So I understand when a team becomes No. 1 in the country like they are, that raises the stakes. Outside of that, it's a good opportunity for our program but it's the next game on the schedule.'' Syracuse (10-0) hasn't played since taking over at No. 1 following road losses by Kentucky and Ohio State. It hasn't played since beating George Washington at home by 35 last weekend. It's also the first game for the Orange outside the state of New York. ''It is our first road game and a really good place to play, a tough place to play,'' Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. ''They are a team that could have won all the games that they lost. It's going to be a great test for us.'' The Orange won last year's meeting 65-59 in the Carrier Dome, though N.C. State led by six midway through the second half before Syracuse held the Wolfpack to two field goals in the final 10 minutes. While most of the team returned from last year, no Wolfpack player has ever been a part of a win against a No. 1-ranked team. N.C. State is 5-25 all-time against No. 1, with the last win coming at home against Duke in 2004. The Wolfpack's other two home wins against No. 1 both came against the Tar Heels, in 1986 and 1995. Williams, at least, has seen the Wolfpack succeed against highly ranked opponents. He was a freshman when N.C. State beat Wake Forest and a sophomore when the Wolfpack beat eventual national champion Duke, with both teams ranked seventh at the time. The biggest change is that this No. 1 is a future ACC member, not a current one. ''I don't think it's any different, though,'' Williams said, ''because No. 1 is No. 1.'' --- AP Sports Writer John Kekis in Syracuse, N.Y., contributed to this report.
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