Deeper Dive: Syracuse Gets First Road Win

Breaking down Syracuse basketball's comeback win over NC State.

Top Performer: John Gillon flat out had a career night against the Wolfpack. The grad transfer combo guard from Colorado State delivered early and often, scoring a career high 43 points, including a perfect 14-14 from the charity stripe. Gillon’s 43 points put him fourth on the program’s all-time list for single game scoring, and was the first player since Orange basketball legend Gerry McNamara to put up at least 43 points in a single game contest. Gillon saved his best for last, hitting the game-tying three pointer with 1.3 seconds to go in the second half to force overtime. Gillon also finished with 9 assists and 4 rebounds, and essentially put the Orange on his back and led them to a huge conference victory. 

Bottom Feeder: Tyler Roberson logged 22 minutes of action in the Syracuse win, but did not look like his aggressive self. He picked up only 3 rebounds along with 2 turnovers. With Taurean Thompson now inserted into the starting lineup, Roberson will have to learn how to be effective coming off the bench and with the second unit.

Stat of the Game: Three-point shooting. The Orange shot 15-26 from beyond the arc, which equates to 57.7%, almost 20 percentage points up from their season average of 39.5%. The three-point shooting was led by marksmen John Gillon, Andrew White, and Tyler Lydon. Gillon finished 9-10 from three, while White and Lydon were a combined 6-14. Speaking of Andrew White, the fellow grad transfer also had a prolific scoring night, dropping 28 points on 11-19 shooting. Gillon and White combined for 71 points, including every point in the overtime period.

Turning Point: At the 8:45 mark in the second half, it seemed that the defensive woes for the Orange would continue to haunt them, as they were trailing NC State 75-59. From that point on Syracuse went on a 28-12 run to end the second half and led by 4 with over a minute to go. The run was capped off by a pair of Gillon free throws, but the most impressive sight was the rotations of the Orange defense when the game mattered. The Wolfpack made a few crucial turnovers against the hectic Orange full-court press during the final 5 minutes of regulation, and Syracuse capitalized on these mistakes.

He Said It: “It saved the game,” head coach Jim Boeheim said of the full court press. “I didn’t want to keep pressing, I thought they would get by us and the backline defense was not good enough. But it’s the reason we won the game.” 

Five Takeaways:

  1. John Gillon could be mentioned a million times in this dive and still not get the credit he deserves. Gillon was the go-to crunch time player for the Orange, mainly because of his ability to knock down free throws and get to the basket consistently. Gillon used his upper body strength to bully defenders down low, proving his worth to star-studded guard Dennis Smith Jr. Gillon seems to finally have figured it out on offense, and it will be exciting to see him unleash his repertoire of skills on that end of the floor in the future.
  2. Although it seemed like Gillon deserves most of the credit for the win, Andrew White also should take some nod. White scored the first 7 points of the overtime period that gave the Orange the early 94-87 lead over the Wolfpack. White was his own version of a Swiss Army knife in the overtime period, hitting outside shots along with driving to the basket and making sound defensive plays. White received a few dimers from John Gillon which helped, but White has the ability to create his own offense as well. 
  3. Tyler Lydon had another strong game for the Orange. The Sophomore forward finished with 15 points and 7 rebounds while shooting 6-11 from the field. Lydon was crucial to stopping opposing guard Dennis Smith Jr. from getting to the basket freely, while also stretching out the floor on offense to let Gillon and White work their magic. Lydon did well switching on screens and closing out on the Wolfpack shooters such as Maverick Rowan, who led NC State in scoring with 31 points. Lydon was the glue man to the Orange defense, and did a nice job helping out when needed on the offensive end.
  4. The Syracuse defense had trouble for most of the night with the Wolfpack guard duo of Rowan and Smith Jr. Smith Jr. finished with a triple double and seemed to be hitting on all cylinders in the second half as NC State was up by 16 at one point. Once the Orange switched into the full court press around the 6-minute mark however, it was all downhill for Smith Jr. and company. The press was necessary for the Orange to speed up the Wolfpack’s decision-making and force them to turn the ball over. Syracuse was able to grab 50/50 balls all night, and took advantage of a jump ball possession that led to Gillon free throws with just over a minute to go in regulation.
  5. Syracuse gets another hard-fought win, this one their first road win of the season. The Orange are now 6-4 in conference play, which currently ties them for 5th place with Notre Dame. There is only a two-game difference between the 2nd and 5th spots however, and Syracuse will have another conference test as they go home to face No.9 Virginia, who just so happens to be 2nd in the conference.

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