WINSTON-SALEM Wake Forest had the recipe to beat Syracuse on Wednesday night, but the Deacons needed more of each ingredient.
The Deacons penetrated the Orange's zone frequently, forced Syracuse into a low shooting percentage and took good care of the ball with only eight turnovers.
But even in the confines of the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum where the Deacons had not lost all season, Wake Forest (14-7, 4-4 ACC) couldn't muster what it took to bring down the No. 2 Orange (20-0, 7-0) and fell 67-57.
Down by its largest deficit of the game so far at 40-32, Wake Forest's Coron Williams hit a 3-pointer from the corner, and then Madison Jones got an inbounds steal and layup to bring the Deacons within three with 12:20 remaining in the second half.
The five-point swing forced Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim to take a timeout, and after that, it became the Tyler Ennis show. The freshman point guard, regarded as one of the best in the nation at his position, scored four buckets in the lane in four minutes to help the Orange get a more comfortable 50-43 lead with 7:09 left in the game.
"(Ennis) gets going, that was the difference in the game," Boeheim said of the guard, who finished with a game-high 18 points. "It was just one of those games that you try to struggle through defensively, and we did just a good enough job defensively to be able to get the win. But it was a very struggling game on the offensive end of the court."
The Deacons would claw back to within five on two occasions, but Ennis or star forward C.J. Fair would give Syracuse the cushion it would need to leave Winston-Salem with its 20th consecutive win.
Syracuse, which came into Winston-Salem shooting 46 percent from the field, was held to 36.2 percent shooting Wednesday. But Syracuse out-rebounded the home team 55-35, including 10 more offensive rebounds.
"Our inability to rebound simply killed any kind of momentum that we were working hard to gain," Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik said. "We were playing good defense, but we never finished a defensive possession. ...We did a good job, I thought, of attacking their zone -- we got good looks -- we only turned the ball over eight times, but just couldn't make a timely shot and couldn't finish off our defensive possessions."
Wake Forest entered Wednesday night riding a 13-game home winning streak. Furthermore, the Deacons had won its previous three home games against teams ranked in the top two in the AP poll with wins against No. 2 Miami last year, No. 1 Duke in 2009 and another win against then-No. 2 Duke in 2008.
Syracuse has struggled against unranked teams on the road recently. The Orange was down at Miami with less than nine minutes remaining in Saturday's game and trailed by as many as eight points in the second half against Boston College on Jan. 13, and earlier this week Boeheim scoffed at the notion of the Deacons being a trap game for his Orange.
The Deacons would take an early 11-6 lead when Arnaud Adala Moto brought the crowd to its feet with a monster two-handed slam over Syracuse's Baye Moussa Keita to make it 11-6.
Travis McKie hit the Deacons' first 3-pointer of the game within the final 5 seconds of the first half to bring the home team within three points at 26-23 going into halftime. McKie's 3-pointer was only the second Deacons' field goal in the final 10 minutes of the first half as Wake Forest struggled at the free-throw line to shoot 8-for-15 in the first half.
Bzdelik mentioned earlier in the week about the importance of getting touches in the paint against Syracuse's patented zone defense. The Deacons had 20 in the first half and 12 points in the paint to show for it.
But Wake Forest could score only eight points in the paint in the second half as Syracuse tightened its zone and leading scorer Cody Miller-McIntyre played a majority of the second half with four fouls.
"We lost the game on the boards," McKie said. "That's where our weakness is, and in order for us to take the next step we have to better that area."
Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9
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