Cardiac ‘Cuse strikes again.
In a season that has certainly had its ups and downs, there is one thing that is constant for the Syracuse Orange: they will bring every game down to the wire.
30,331 fans packed the Carrier Dome on Wednesday night as the Orange tried to save their season against the #10 Duke Blue Devils. Losers of the last three, Syracuse desperately needed a win in order help secure their place on the NCAA Tournament bubble. The Blue Devils, coming off an impressive 7 game win streak, were looking to gain ground on UNC and Louisville in the ACC race and improve their resume for the NCAA Tournament.
To begin the game, the Orange looked exactly as they had during the 3-game losing streak. The Syracuse bigs stood no match against Jayson Tatum and Amile Jefferson. Tatum, specifically, went off against Syracuse’s frontcourt. He abused Tyler Lydon and Taurean Thompson on the boards on his way to a total of 13 rebounds, 4 of which being offensive. Syracuse didn’t necessarily have a bad half, but the Blue Devils got on a roll and ended the half with a 33-25 lead.
I don’t know what Jim Boeheim tells him team every game during halftime, but he should definitely start giving that speech before the game. As they have all season, Syracuse came out swinging in the second half. The whole tempo of the game changed when the teams came out of the locker room. What was a slower, more defensive minded game in the first half instantly became an offensive display.
John Gillon (26 pts), who seemed a bit timid during the first half, exploded offensively. He drove the ball to the basket with purpose and drew a lot of fouls against the Blue Devils. This foul trouble proved to be incredibly important as Duke star Grayson Allen picked up his fourth foul early in the second half and had to sit out a significant amount of time. Allen would finish with 8 points (2-11 shooting) in 29 minutes.
Tyus Battle and Tyler Lydon also had a fantastic second half for Syracuse. Battle recovered from a subpar stretch of games, in which he was dealing with an illness, with 18 points. Lydon finished with 11 points, but it was his defensive effort that really stood out. Unlike the first half, Lydon was a force down low. He played incredibly tight defense, bringing in a team leading 9 rebound, and was critical to holding the Blue Devils to 5-18 (27.78%) from behind the arc in the second half.
The Orange clawed back and took a 2-point lead with around 13 minutes remaining. For the rest of the game, both teams fought vigorously with no one leading by more than two points. After a slew of jumpers, three points and free throws from each team, the score was tied with only 37 seconds remaining.
Duke guard Luke Kennard held the ball at the top of the key, trying to kill as much time as possible and still get a good shot off. With 8 seconds left, Kennard drove to the basket and missed a contested layup. Lydon grabbed the defensive rebound and passed it to Tyus Battle. Battle found John Gillon streaking down the court and got him the ball with approximately 4 seconds left. Gillon rushed down the court and banked in a three pointer, while being contested by 3 Duke players, at the buzzer.
And then insanity ensued.
A simultaneous scream rang out as 30,000+ fans all celebrated the dramatic win. Fans poured onto the court by the hundreds. Cheers of “Let’s Go Orange” echoed throughout the Carrier Dome so loud that they could be heard outside.
Cardiac ‘Cuse had struck again, and the fans couldn’t have been happier.