Michael Gbinije is the guy you want to be holding the ball when the going gets tough. And it certainly got tough for Syracuse in Tuesday night’s 68-60 victory over Virginia Tech in overtime.
Gbinije had a typical night, contributing greatly to the Orange win with 17 points on 6-13 shooting, three rebounds, three assists, and two blocks in 43 minutes. But the veteran captain’s impact was barely felt until a game-tying, NBA range, 3-pointer with 34 seconds left in regulation.
“At that point, I was just trying to get the best available shot,” said Gbinije, admitting that four steps behind the line may have been a bit risky. “I’m still thinking about the shot myself. In that heat of the moment I wasn’t thinking how far it was or ‘I hope I make this’ I just threw it up and it just went in. So I’m happy it turned out that way.”
Though Syracuse struggled through a particularly bad first half performance, scoring just 24 points, Gbinije continued to grind through the game, taking shots as he saw them and even getting involved on the glass.
He had two blocks in the contest but also found himself with three personal fouls two minutes into the second half. After sitting out for just one minute, he let his teammates shine, dishing it to Tyler Lydon and Tyler Roberson, concentrated on defense, and directed his teammates.
That last part was the key.
Gbinije, despite being the leading scorer for the Orange and playing the most minutes—he’s No. 3 in the NCAA for MPG—shares the ball and is consistently named for helping his teammates focus on and off the court.
Tyler Lydon has mentioned his leadership a few times this season, crediting him for everything from encouraging words in the early season to sage advice about trying not to beat himself up over mistakes. Though Gbinije has joked about being a lot harder on Lydon, the point has been made: Gbinije runs the offense in the point guard spot, and leads the team off the court too.
It’s easy to love “Silent G”- he’s sweet and soft-spoken, quick to deflect credit to his team, and he is more likely to make a self-deprecating joke about his shot choices than brag about his stellar performance. This love seems to be shared by players and coaches alike.
“You couldn’t ask a player to do more than what he’s doing for us,” said Boeheim after Syracuse’s previous game against Georgia Tech, in which Gbinije scored 16 points—top scorer—and handed out 3 assists.
And that’s the thing; you don’t have to ask. Michael Gbinije will just do it. Especially when it matters most.