Men's basketball: Gbinije's late jumper completes furious comeback against Virginia Tech

The junior's buzzer beater helped SU overcome a sloppy performance on both ends of the court.

Although it came one calendar day after the actual holiday, Syracuse’s showdown against Virginia Tech on Tuesday night felt like something out of the hit 1993 film “Groundhog Day.” Just as Bill Murray’s character lived the same exact day again and again, the Orange followed the same exact script on its home floor. 

Struggle to make shots early on, pull even by halftime, fall behind by a sizable margin, and attempt a furious comeback in the closing minutes. 

Photo: Bryan Cereijo
Gbinije showed off an array of scoring moves in the front court during SU's fight against Virginia Tech.

But this time, Michael Gbinije made sure the final outcome was a happy one for Orange Nation. 

Gbinije’s jump shot with 0.1 seconds remaining capped off an incredible rally and sent the Orange to a thrilling 72-70 victory over the Hokies in front of 22,928 fans at the Carrier Dome. The junior scored 18 points, including the game’s final six, and helped the Orange escape an embarrassing upset.

“I’ve been in a lot of games and I’m probably going to overstate this,” SU head coach Jim Boeheim said, “but the way we were, where we were… they’ve got four guards out there. We’re a little bit tired. This comeback ranks up there with any that I’ve ever been a part of.” 

Down 13 points with 6:31 remaining, SU (15-7, 6-3 Atlantic Coast) needed a spark and got one from its full-court press. 

Despite finishing with a four-guard lineup due to foul trouble, Virginia Tech (9-13, 1-8 Atlantic Coast) literally threw the lead away amidst the Orange’s frantic swarm. A series of corner traps and double-teams led to four Hokie turnovers in the final three minutes, including a backcourt violation with 7.1 seconds left that set up Gbinije’s redemptive final shot. 

After SU had cut the lead down to four in the final minute, Gbinije took over with three strong drives to the rim. After the first two resulted in a lay-up and a pair of free-throw conversions, he found himself with the ball and the game on the line. 

As his shot hit nothing but nylon, the crowd erupted into a raucous frenzy. 

“I drove up. I threw it in to (Tyler Roberson) and I got it back,” Gbinije said. “I drove down the middle going in with my left hand. They cut me off right about the block, and I kept my pivot, just turned around and shot it. 

“Joy. Hype. That was kind of a weird feeling. I was grateful the shot went in. Our team needed it. Just happy.” 

The dramatic finish overshadowed what had been a poor shooting performance by the Orange. Trevor Cooney converted only two of 12 attempts from beyond the arc, and the team shot only 19 percent from downtown. 

Meanwhile, Virginia Tech, which Boeheim called the deepest three-point-shooting team in the conference, couldn’t miss during the early part of the second half. On four separate plays, SU point guard Kaleb Joseph failed to rotate defensively and allowed open corner jumpers. 

The Hokies would make each of those and seven in total during the half to build its sizable lead. Once the pace picked up, though, the Orange was able to fluster the young Tech guards and scrap together its decisive run. 

“We can’t get ourselves in holes like that,” Cooney said, “but you dig your way out and come out stronger. 

“It’s a good win for us. I mean… any win in the ACC is a good win, and for us to be down the way we were and fight back, it’s a positive.” 

Rakeem Christmas quietly scored 15 points and blocked five shots, continuing his stellar breakout season. 

Ron Patterson played a season-high 23 minutes, but missed a couple of three-point attempts and was the subject of Boeheim’s ire following the game. The SU head coach was also very critical of Joseph and B.J. Johnson, citing each of their defensive breakdowns with apparent disdain. 

With the meat of SU’s conference schedule still ahead, he said each of them needs to start showing improvement for the team to have any realistic hope of competing. 

Said Boeheim: “We’re playing with three guys, and that’s hard to do in college basketball.”

Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.