SU Basketball: Syracuse vs Duke

Gillon's buzzer beater leads Syracuse men's basketball past No. 10 Duke

SU guard totals game-high 26 points, banks in game-winning 3-pointer as time expires

John Gillon hesitated a split second before dribbling up the court for Syracuse’s final possession against Duke on Wednesday night.

With the score tied at 75 and eight seconds remaining in regulation, Blue Devils guard Luke Kennard missed a jumper that would have given his team a late lead. Syracuse forward Tyler Lydon corralled the rebound and kicked the ball out to guard Tyus Battle, who swung it cross court to Gillon.

Photo: Bryan Cereijo

Gillon received the pass, looked up at the clock and saw there was only five seconds left. He then took three quick, long dribbles up the court and pulled-up for a deep 3-pointer from straight on with two Blue Devil defenders in his face. His shot banged off the backboard and fell through the net. Seconds later, the Carrier Dome crowd of 30,331 stormed onto the court, as Syracuse (17-12, 9-7 ACC) had just upset No. 10 Duke, 78-75.

“I was thinking I could get all the way to the rim,” Gillon said about the game’s closing moments. “But I was looking at the angles and it wasn’t there. I was like, ‘I’ve got to rise up right here.’ And, I made it.”

Gillon and Battle carried Syracuse’s offense for most of the second half. SU fell behind eight minutes into the game and a Jayson Tatum jumper put Duke (22-6, 10-5 ACC) up by 10 with 57 seconds left before halftime.

But, both Gillon and Battle heated up following the break. Battle scored nine points over a two-minute stretch to help Syracuse tie the score at 47 with 13:08 remaining.

“I like big moments like that,” Battle said about his second half performance. “I like being aggressive, running my shot or getting my teammates involved.”

From there, Gillon took over, scoring the next seven SU points as Duke struggled to stop his drives at the rim. After a dunk by Tatum halfway through the period put the Blue Devils back in front by three, Gillon knocked down a long 3-pointer to re-tie the score.

“We go as John Gillon goes pretty much,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “When he’s good, we haven’t lost. He was really good tonight.”

Overall, the pair combined for 33 points in the second half and knocked down three of their four total 3-point attempts. But, the Orange failed to get separation from Duke, as Kennard and Tatum answered with baskets of their own.

Neither team gained more than a one possession lead over the game’s final 13:35 and with under two minutes to go, Amile Jefferson sunk a pair of free throws, flipping the scoreboard back in Duke’s favor.

But, a minute later Gillon finished a transition lay-up to tie the score and followed with his game winning buzzer-beater. He totaled 26 points in the contest.

“To be able to play in this game and play against Duke, it was a dream come true,” Gillon said. “I don’t take it for granted. I’m glad I could play like that on that stage.”

Three other players joined Gillon in double-figures. Battle finished with 18 points, while Lydon and Taurean Thompson chipped in 11 apiece. Kennard totaled 23 points for Duke, while Tatum added 19 and a game-high 13 rebounds.

The win keeps Syracuse’s NCAA Tournament hopes alive with just two regular season games remaining. The Orange will return to action on Sunday against Louisville at 2 p.m. in the KFC Yum! Center. The Cardinals topped SU, 76-72, in the Carrier Dome on Feb. 13. 

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