A quick take on Syracuse’s thrilling, back and forth 100-93 overtime victory against North Carolina State on Wednesday evening at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.:
WHAT HAPPENED: After leading 44-41 at halftime, it seems Syracuse (14-9, 6-4) forgot to show up coming out of the halftime locker room. N.C. State (14-7, 3-7) raced out to a 27-11 run over the first 9:00 of the second half to tilt the course of the game, before the Orange had a another run of their own to get back in it late. Tied at 87 after regulation, thanks to an incredible three point basket by John Gillon with 1.8 seconds left, Andrew White III then scored the first nine points in OT to lead SU to its first road win of the season (1-7 away from the Dome). White finished with 28 points, but it was Gillon, exploding for 43 points hitting nine three point baskets and going 14 for 14 from the foul line, who engineered the gutty comeback.
ANALYSIS: In a game that Syracuse absolutely needed to keep its NCAA Tournament hopes alive, the Orange took advantage of the opportunity in OT against another team that will likely be on the bubble come selection Sunday. N.C. State’s Dennis Smith Jr., the outstanding freshman and no doubt ACC rookie of the year front runner, was unstoppable in finishing with his second, triple double of the season, but SU point guard Gillon was equally outstanding in keeping the ‘Cuse in the game finishing with the most points by an Orange player since Gerry McNamara also had 43 in the 2004 NCAA Tournament first round win over BYU.
HEROES: Both point guards were simply terrific. As Gillon goes this season running the offense, so goes the Orange. His three pointer to tie the game was from way outside, and his cool demeanor was evident from the foul line hitting all 14 of his free throws. It’s obvious to see in his first collegiate season why NCSU’s Smith Jr. is not only the top newcomer in the ACC, but perhaps nationally. His skill in running the offense and consistently finding an open teammate, crashing the defensive boards, and scoring inside and out, resulted in the triple double performance.
ZERO: Hard to be picky with the first road win of the season in overtime, but the zone defense had difficulty all night in not only containing Smith Jr., but finding the Wolfpack’s sharp shooter Maverick Rowan who finished 8 for 18 from beyond the arc on route to his 31 points.
WHAT’S NEXT: Syracuse will have another opportunity for a resume enhancing NCAA Tournament win when it returns home to face No. 9 Virginia (17-4, 7-2) on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 4. It is the first time the ‘Cuse has faced the Cavaliers since the memorable 2016 NCAA Tournament Elite Eight game, in which SU mounted a furious second-half rally to catapult them to the Final Four. UVA, at home, blasted Virginia Tech 71-48 Wed. night. Game time: 12:00 p.m. ET / TV: ESPN2.