One-tenth of a second. That was all that remained on the clock when Michael Gbinije’s short jumper shot fell through the net, averted an embarrassing home loss to Virginia Tech, and possibly kept Syracuse’s NCAA Tournament hopes alive. Gbinije’s bucket capped a personal 6-0 run and gave the Orange (15-7, 6-3 ACC) a 72-70 win over the Hokies (9-13, 1-8) at the Carrier Dome. The shot finished off a 22-7 rally that took less than five-and-a-half minutes and may have saved SU’s season.
On a night when Syracuse could barely buy a free throw (16-of-29 at the line) and Virginia Tech hit 50 percent from three-point range, Gbinije’s heroics capped a 15-4 finishing kick where the Orange full-court press paid off in spades, forcing a half dozen Hokie turnovers in the final minutes. The Orange held the visitors without a field goal in the final four minutes, allowing them to finish a dramatic comeback where they wiped out a 13-point deficit in under six minutes.
Trevor Cooney hit a jumper to open the scoring, but Virginia Tech came back with six straight points for an early four-point Hokie lead. SU would charge back, eventually knotting the game at ten a side with under eight minutes elapsed on a Cooney three-ball.
After a pair of Virginia Tech lay-ups, the Orange went on an 11-0 run to take control of the game. Michael Gbinije started the run with a sweeping lay-up as part of a three-point-play, then Cooney scored off a Rakeem Christmas pass to take the lead. Ron Patterson tipped a loose rebound downcourt, then corralled it for a breakaway jam, then Cooney stole the ball and posted a dunk of his own to force a VT time out. After the break, Christmas added a pair of foul shots to put SU in front, 21-14, with 7:24 left in the half.
Virginia Tech responded with 14 of the game’s next 18 points to regain control at 28-25 with under three minutes left in the half. Gbinije hit his first of two threes in the half’s final three minutes to wipe out the deficit, then later drilled the second to close the scoring in the half and give SU a 34-30 lead at the break.
The Hokies took charge coming out of the locker room, draining three triples in less then 90 seconds to take a five-point lead. The Orange fought back with a pair of dunks. First, Christmas soared in to ram home a missed Cooney three, then Gbinije set up Tyler Roberson to finish a three-on-one fast break with a jam.
The stuffs started an 11-4 run for the Orange. Cooney finished the business end of the burst, knocking down a three-pointer as the trail man on one fast break and being fouled (he missed the free throw), then drove in for a lay-up on the break on the next possession and scored for a 45-43 Syracuse lead just over five minutes into the half.
The Hokies stuck a pair of treys to take the lead back, but Cooney made a nice stepthrough to get a short jumper, then Patterson dished to Roberson for a transition slam to knot the game at 49.
Virginia Tech then took over the next six minutes of action, hitting two threes (part of a 7-for-8 explosion from long range to start the second half) as part of a 14-1 run. When the burst was complete, VT was sitting pretty with a 63-50 lead and just over six minutes on the clock.
Patterson started the rally for the Orange, converting a steal into a lay-up. Cooney dropped in a pair from the line and SU went to their full-court press to force the issue. Kaleb Joseph got a steal out of the press and was fouled, then made both shots at the line. With the point guard’s pair at the stripe, Syracuse had chipped six points off the deficit in under a minute.
Shortly after that, Christmas stole the ball and fed Patterson for a lay-up to make it a six-point game. Another Tech turnover led to a Gbinije foul shot to make it a five-point game. Gbinije stole the ball on the next Hokie possession and Roberson would eventually tap home a missed Cooney three to make it 66-63 with under three minutes left. Virginia Tech missed a lay-up on the ensuing possession and Patterson pushed the tempo again and his lay-up drew SU within a single point.
Tech made up for their earlier errors at the charity stripe, dropping in a pair of shots on two occasions while the Orange only got a single free throw from Christmas, leaving Syracuse in a 70-66 hole with 40.5 seconds to play.
Then Michael Gbinije took over.
The redshirt senior drove the floor and finished with a pretty lay-up while being fouled. His shot missed from the line, but, after a Christmas steal, he drove and was fouled again. Having made only 4-of-8 at the stripe before that point, Gbinije stuck both free throws, evening the scoreboard at 70 a side.
With the ball and time on their side, the Hokies erred, as Ahmed Hill turned the ball over with seven seconds left. That was more than enough time for Gbinije. He inbounded to Roberson, got a quick return pass, then drove across the lane. Gbinije stopped, spun back to his left, and banged home a short jumper with 0.1 on the scoreboard to the approval of the Carrier Dome crowd.
Trevor Cooney and Michael Gbinije paced SU with 18 points apiece, the latter also handing out seven assists and coming up with four steals. Rakeem Christmas had his eighth double-double of the year as part of an overstuffed stat line, finishing with 15 points, 12 rebounds, five blocks, and four steals. Tyler Roberson had 11 boards to go with six points and Ron Patterson provided eight points off the pine.
Justin Bibbs had 19 points to lead all scorers while Jalen Hudson had 18 points for Virginia Tech. Adam Smith had 13 points while Shane Henry and Malik Muller each chipped in nine points. Smith and Muller each buried three triples on the night.
Saturday afternoon, the Orange will travel to Pittsburgh for the first of two matchups in two weeks with that longtime rival. The Panthers (15-8, 4-5) have won their last two games, both of which were at home, the first over then-#8 Notre Dame.
Three Pitt players average double figures in scoring, led by Michael Young, who tops the squad in points at 13.2 per game and rebounds at 7.8 per game. Jamel Artis is second on the team at 12.4 points per outing and leads the Panthers by shooting 41.2 percent on three-pointers.
Tip-off is set for 4:00pm Eastern from the Petersen Events Center. The telecast will be provided by ESPN2 and ESPN3.com will stream the game.