It took withstanding a furious second half rally, but Syracuse remained undefeated at home in conference play and simultaneously got a huge win on Saturday, holding off #6 Florida State at the Carrier Dome, 82-72. The Orange (13-9, 5-4 ACC) gave back almost all of an 18-point second half lead in less then ten minutes, but scored 13 of the game’s final 18 points to escape with the victory. In fact, John Gillon scored the final 13 points for SU, hitting 11-of-12 foul shots in the last three minutes to deal the Seminoles (18-4, 6-3) their second consecutive defeat.
Syracuse played well on defense for much of the day, permitting their guests to shoot just over 38 percent from the floor, including 31.3 percent in the opening half as they were building their big lead. The Orange also won the battle on the backboards against one of the tallest teams in the nation, outrebounding FSU by a narrow 42-39 margin.
After the Seminoles scored the opening basket, SU scratched together the next nine points of the day. Andrew White III opened and closed the stretch, starting things off with a three-pointer from the right corner and finishing the run with a swooping reverse lay-up to make it a 9-2 game in favor of Syracuse with almost six minutes gone.
FSU came to life at that time, scoring the next seven points to tie the game. Shortly after that tie, the Seminoles pulled in front by a point, but the responded by Orange blowing the game open with a 20-6 run.
Frank Howard started the run with a slick pass to Tyler Roberson in transition for a lay-in to put SU on top, then Roberson later knocked down a 15-footer off the right baseline to stretch the lead to three. Tyler Lydon would bomb in a pair of threes during the stretch, the first following a Tyus Battle to Roberson alley-oop dunk and the latter closing the run after a Florida State time out. The second trey gave Syracuse a 33-20 lead with under four minutes to go in the opening half.
FSU rang up five straight points, but the Orange finished the half an 11-1 run to take an 18-point halftime lead. Gillon opened the burst with a three from the left wing and White III followed with a pair of foul shots. Howard added a jump shot, then Gillon converted a steal into a pair of free throws. The ‘Noles got a free throw, but Gillon fed Roberson for a lay-in and a 44-26 halftime lead.
Florida State owned the first four minutes after halftime, ripping off a 15-5 run to draw within 49-41. Gillon hit a three to give SU a double digit lead again, but the Seminoles responded with another run, this one a 10-2 streak, to narrow the margin to 54-51 with over 12 minutes left.
Syracuse nudged the lead back out to seven points a couple minutes later, but FSU would fight back, getting within a deuce. Lydon brought the Carrier Dome to its feet and put some wind back in the team’s sails, emphatically tomahawking a missed three-pointer for a slam with just over eight minutes left.
The Seminoles kept fighting back, getting within two points on three more occasions, the last with 3:20 showing on the clock. Gillon then took over the game, getting fouled on consecutive possessions and converting two trips to the line into three made free throws.
An FSU three-pointer drew them within two points once more, but Gillon scooped in a lay-up to double that lead then was sent to the line by the ‘Noles after a missed shot. That scenario played out three times and Gillon cashed in both free throws on each trip, extending the lead to 80-70 with under 30 seconds to play.
FSU added a pair of free throws to their side of the ledger, then fouled Gillon once more. Fittingly, he cashed in another pair at the stripe for the game’s final points.
For the second straight outing, Andrew White III led all scorers, this time finishing with 24 points while he fell a single rebound shy of a double-double. He also grabbed four steals. John Gillon was able to notch a double-double, handing out 11 assists to go with 21 points, including a 13-of-14 mark at the foul line. Tyler Lydon also had a double-double, finishing with 14 points and 11 rebounds, while also blocking six shots, all in the first half. Tyler Roberson had ten points, all before halftime, while Tyus Battle chipped in with nine points. Both Battle and Roberson snagged three steals.
Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac paced the Seminoles with 19 points apiece, the latter also grabbing a dozen rebounds. Xavier Rathan-Mayes buried four triples for most of his 16 points.
Wednesday night, the Orange will resume their search for their first ACC road win of the season, this time traveling to Raleigh to take on North Carolina State. The Wolfpack (14-7, 3-5) will play at #13 Louisville on Sunday before welcoming SU to town.
Five different players average double figures in scoring for the ‘Pack, led by star freshman Dennis Smith, Jr., who has scored in double figures in every game en route to averaging 19.5 points per game on the season. In addition to cracking the 30-point plateau three times this season, Smith has handed out double digit assists three times, including in a triple-double against Virginia Tech.
Television duties for the Syracuse-NC State matchup, which will get underway at 7:00pm Eastern, will be handled by ESPN2. The game will also be available online at ESPN3.com.