Gbinije's 23 points carry Orange to Sweet 16

Michael Gbinije led the way for the Orange with a game-high 23 points on Sunday.

Malachi Richardson had the hot hand during Syracuse's 70-51 victory over 10th-seeded Dayton on Friday, and tonight it was Michael Gbinije that carried the Orange past Middle Tennessee State.

"Mike knocked down a couple of really hard shots and it got us a little space," SU head coach Jim Boeheim said after the game.

Gbinije scored a game-high 23 points on 10-of-14 shooting, 3-of-7 from 3-point range. 

Darnell Harris, a forward on MTSU, led the Blue Raiders with 11 points. Gbinije doubled that, and then some. 

"I'm just focused on time and possession," the 5th-year senior said after the 25-point win. "Looking at the scoreboard, just trying to make sure that each possession we have the lead. And I just wanted to come out and compete and try to win.

In the first half, Gbinije had nine points, and the Orange led by four. It surrendered a 12-point lead with 9:58 to go in the first half. 

Earlier in the second half, Middle Tennessee took the lead on a Giddy Potts' 3-pointer. It was MTSU's second lead the of the game. It recently led 5-4 early in the first half.

Gbinije then took over, scoring 14 second-half points on 6-of-8 shooting. He also had two steals, and played all 20 second-half minutes. He had a corner 3-pointer across from the SU bench that all but sealed the deal for the Orange.

"The difference," according to Jim Boeheim, "was when Mike got going. That was the difference. That was the only difference in the game. Mike, he made two tough turnarounds, nice touches. And then he made that corner three and that really was it right there."

Raymond left the game, with MTSU trailing by four, due to foul trouble with 14:56 remaining in the second half. Gbinije then scored seven points in the next five minutes, giving SU a 54-41 lead. 

"I just tried to take advantage of the personnel they had out there," he said. "There were some open lanes that I was able to get in. I had a small guy on me, I was able to elevate and shoot over him. But Raymond's a good player. He played good defense the whole game. With him going out of the game, it opened up a little opportunities for me."

Syracuse will now play 11th-seeded Gonzaga on Friday night in Chicago.

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