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VIDEO: Gillon’s banked in 3 helps Syracuse ‘find a way’ in win over Duke

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As I watched John Gillon’s shot soar through the air, crash off the backboard and fly through the rim to beat No. 10 Duke at the buzzer, I found myself thinking about ‘Jurassic Park.’

Syracuse, like life, finds a way.

The Orange, for nearly the last two seasons, have simply navigated a path toward their destination, even if it looked blocked before they got started.

Gillon’s banked in 3-pointer at the buzzer, which gave the Orange a 78-75 win over the Blue Devils, is emblematic of Syracuse prevailing in the least expected ways.

The Orange came into the night squarely on the bubble. They had lost their last three games to drop their record to 16-12. They trailed Duke by as many as nine only to take the lead and then give right back.

It didn’t matter. The Orange found a way, however unlikely, to win the game.

That’s been their M.O. since last season. Syracuse dropped five of its last six games of that year. The Orange got blown out by Louisville and Pitt before losing close ones to North Carolina, Florida State and then Pitt in the ACC tournament.

Despite the swoon, the selection committee found a way to slot them as the 10th seed in the Midwest, where they blew through the first two rounds, snuck by Gonzaga and then came roaring back from 16 down in Chicago to defeat top-seed Virginia to earn the program’s sixth Final Four appearance.

They found a way.

With their NCAA tournament hopes very much in the balance against Duke, it was very much the same.

Luke Kennard, who scored 23 points and had five assists, took the ball with just over 10 seconds to play outside the 3-point arc. The 6-foot-6 sophomore found the 6-foot Gillon on an island trying to guard him alone. Kennard went left, then right – unable to find a shred of daylight as Gillon denied him an inch – and finally spun back left. With him with every step was Gillon, who contested Kennard’s jumper from the elbow and watched it clank off the rim into teammate Tyus Battle’s hands.

Battle passed across the court to Gillon with five seconds left. Gillon raced in a straight line across half court and was met by three Blue Devils. He pulled up, had a slight double-clutch as he gathered himself in mid-air and launched Syracuse’s chance to win into the awaiting space.

The backboard lights lit up right before impact, signalling the expiration of the clock, but also drawing attention to what was about to happen there in tenths of a second.

Ricochet and through. The Orange found a way.

Where they go from here is anyone’s guess. There’s no guarantee of another magical Final Four run, or even an NCAA tournament berth, though that certainly looks prevailingly likely now.

This loss doesn’t really wound Duke, who saw its seven-game win streak stopped, but it props up the Orange to continue to pursue their goals. Any which way they can.

St. John’s smashes Syracuse in Carrier Dome

St. John's Richard Freudenberg, left, and teammate Tarig Owens, center, and others celebrate on the St. John's bench late in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Syracuse in Syracuse, N.Y., Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016. St. John's won 93-60. (AP Photo/Nick Lisi)
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An old Big East matchup ended with an old-fashioned beatdown.

St. John’s went into the Carrier Dome and defeated Syracuse, 93-60, on Wednesday night.

Now that you’ve done a double-take, here it is for a third time: Yes, St. John’s, which has losses to Delaware State, Old Dominion, and LIU-Brooklyn to its name, won by 33 points on Jim Boeheim’s homecourt.

Whoa, boy.

The Red Storm shot 53.1 percent overall and made 12 of 29 (41.4 percent) from 3-point range while holding the Orange to 32.8 percent shooting from the floor and 4 of 24 (16.7 percent) from distance. That disparity in percentages is a sure-fire way for there to be a monster disparity on the scoreboard.

Really, it was a lot about 3-point shooting. Chris Mullin’s St. John’s teams is one of the best in the country from long range at 41 percent, and they shoot a ton of them. That held serve Wednesday. The Orange aren’t far behind at 39.4 percent, and they too are reliant and making shots from beyond the arc. That obviously didn’t happen this night.

The Big East reunion tour hasn’t been kind to Syracuse this season as they also dropped games to UConn and Georgetown, putting them at 0-3 against their former familiar foes this season.

For St. John’s, it’ll be interesting if this is a sign of life after a rough non-conference schedule or more of a fluke. Don’t forget last season when the Red Storm knocked off the Orange at home in similar surprising fashion, but proceeded to lose to Incarnate Word and NJIT in the first two of 16-straight losses and a 1-17 Big East season. After a difficult season-and-a-half to start Mullin’s tenure, St. John’s has to be hoping this represent some sort of turning point.

Georgetown beats Syracuse 78-71 in rivalry renewal

LAHAINA, HI - NOVEMBER 23: Rodney Pryor #23 of the Georgetown Hoyas glides to the basket and shoots during the second half of the Maui Invitational NCAA college basketball game at the Lahaina Civic Center on November 23, 2016 in Lahaina, Hawaii. (Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images). Oklahoma State won the game 97-70.
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) If only Syracuse had the “Pearl” – on the court instead of in their hearts.

On a day the Orange paid tribute to the late Dwayne “Pearl” Washington, L.J. Peak and Rodney Pryor put a damper on the day, combining for 43 points as Georgetown held off Syracuse 78-71 on Saturday.

Peak had 23 points and 11 rebounds and Pryor added 20 points to key the victory in the renewal of a once-fierce Big East rivalry, which Washington was a big part of.

“Whenever Georgetown wins in the Carrier Dome, it’s a big win for the program,” Hoyas coach John Thompson III said. “This rivalry, these two institutions, when you think about the Big East you think about Pearl, Patrick (Ewing) and Chris Mullin. When you come up here and it’s Pearl weekend, it’s like they need some extra incentive? Without a doubt, he’s one of the pillars of the Big East.”

Syracuse (6-4), which has struggled to form any kind of consistency so far this season, didn’t find much again. Tyler Lydon was the bright spot with a career-high 29 points, missing only 1 of 13 shots, but where Washington once worked his magic, the Orange guards continued to struggle.

John Gillon had 13 points on 4-of-14 shooting in his first start of the season and Frank Howard had four points, four assists and a game-high six turnovers. Andrew White, who has started in the backcourt six times this season, had 12 points on 3-of-11 shooting in 40 minutes.

RELATED: Syracuse honored Pearl Washington before the game

“We’re just not playing well at the guard spot I don’t think at all,” Orange coach Jim Boeheim said. “We’re making too many mistakes. We’re not getting the ball in the basket from the guard spot. We haven’t in any of our four losses and we’ve got to play better there.”

Georgetown (7-4) has won five straight, the first four coming against teams from the lower echelons of Division I.

The Hoyas matched the largest lead of the game when Jonathan Mullmore drained a 3 to give Georgetown a 67-60 lead with 2:36 left. The Hoyas hung on at the end after Lydon’s follow slam and baseline hook moved the Orange within 69-66 with 64 seconds left.

Georgetown has lived at the free-throw line this year and that helped the Hoyas survive this one. They were 22 of 25 from the line, nine coming in the final 38 seconds, while the Orange was 14 of 25.

It was Pearl Washington Day inside the Carrier Dome and the former Syracuse star, who died in April of cancer at age 52, was celebrated on a snowy, wintry day. Syracuse University is establishing the Pearl Washington Endowed Fund for Continuing Education and set a $1 million endowment goal. The fund will support student-athletes who leave the university and later return to pursue their degrees.

A framed photo of Washington and a piece of the basketball court were presented to Washington’s family at center court during a halftime celebration. A No. 31, Washington’s number at Syracuse, also was unveiled and adhered to the wooden surface at center court.

“This is a very special weekend. Very special, especially since it’s the Georgetown game,” said Rafael Addison, a teammate of Washington in the 1980s. “It’s hard to talk about him. Pearl would be very pleased with the outpouring of love. (When the 31 peeled off) it felt like he was in the building. He loved this building. He loved this community. He had so much life, so much charisma.”

White hit his first two 3-pointers as Syracuse rushed to an 11-4 lead in the first 5:08, giving the Orange the biggest lead of the first half, 11-4. The Hoyas clawed back behind Peak’s 12 points in the opening period, and when Peak hit a follow shot to tie the game at 31-all in the final two minutes, it almost seemed like an Orange omen.

It wasn’t.

“We need to improve, take care of business,” White said. “That kind of puts a sour taste in the whole theme of the night. It happens sometimes.”

BIG PICTURE

Georgetown: Hoyas entered the game averaging 28.5 trips to the free-throw line and that’s been a huge factor. They were shooting 77.5 percent on free throws before the game. … Hoyas have won six of their last eight meetings with Syracuse.

Syracuse: A video montage of Washington highlights was shown before the game. .. The Orange leads the series with Georgetown 49-43 but is 7-11 against John Thompson III. Hoyas are 13-30 on the road against Syracuse. … Seven-foot-2 center Paschal Chukwu, a transfer from Providence, had retina surgery on Saturday and is out indefinitely. He’s played 108 minutes in seven games and had not played in two of the previous three games but still led the team with 14 blocks.

ONE FOR PEARL: “We just wanted to make sure that Pearl was honored. He was,” Boeheim said. “We’re just happy we could do that. We had a lot of support from a lot of people.”

UP NEXT

Georgetown: Hosts UNC Greensboro at the Verizon Center next Thursday.

Syracuse: Hosts Eastern Michigan on Monday.

More AP college basketball at http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Top25

Gillon, Thompson lead Syracuse over Boston University

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 26:  John Gillon #4 of the Syracuse Orange dribbles up court against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the first half during the Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational at Barclays Center on November 26, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim wants his bench to perform better.

He got his wish Saturday.

John Gillon and Taurean Thompson came off the bench to score a Syracuse career-high 23 points and career-high 22 points, respectively, and the Orange broke open a tight game early in the second half to defeat Boston University 99-77.

Gillon hadn’t scored in Syracuse’s two previous games.

“We want guys to come off the bench to score and that’s what happened today,” Boeheim said. “Thompson is getting better on offense. … John saved the game in the first half.”

Andrew White added 19 and Tyler Lydon 10 for the Orange (6-3). Frank Howard had 11 assists and just two turnovers.

Syracuse had lost three of four entering the game.

Cedric Hankerson led the Terriers (4-6) with 34 points, including 10 of 20 from beyond the arc. Eric Fanning chipped in with 12 points and nine rebounds.

Syracuse led 45-39 at the half but outscored the Terriers 19-5 in the first five minutes of the second half, led by seven from Thompson, to take a 64-44 lead. The Orange breezed the rest of the way, extending their lead to 88-55. Syracuse shot 55 percent in the second half, outscoring the Terriers 54-38 after intermission.

“They just got on a run and we couldn’t really bounce back from that,” said Hankerson. “They were hitting some daggers and we started turning the ball over too much.”

“They had some guys who shot better than they had been, and we helped them,” said BU coach Joe Jones. “We were really bad on offense and made some really bad decisions and you can’t do that.”

Gillon and Thompson scored 14 and 12 points, respectively, in the first half to spark what had been a lethargic Orange effort. Gillon’s first-half points included 4 of 4 from beyond the arc.

“I had a lot going on and wasn’t in the right mindset, not ready to play,” said Gillon. “That’s what happens, you get bad results. I’m getting myself together.”

Both teams exchanged baskets early on, but then the Terriers went on an 8-0 run, led by two 3-pointers by Hankerson, to take a 20-12 lead. Two 3s by Gillon and a jumper by Thompson tied the score at 23 with 8:31 to go in the half. The Orange then outscored BU 22-16 to take its halftime lead.

Hankerson, who averaged 9.3 points a game entering the game, scored 19 in the first half.

The undersized Terriers outrebounded Syracuse for the game.

Despite the win, Boeheim said there’s much work to do.

“It’s foolish for me or anybody to think this was going to happen right away. It’s a long way off,” Boeheim said. “We have glaring weaknesses and have to get better.”

BIG PICTURE

BOSTON UNIVERSITY: The Terriers hung tough for a half but the Orange’s talent took over in the second 20 minutes. BU was tough on the boards and had 18 second-chance points.

SYRACUSE: It was another decisive victory for the Orange over a decidedly inferior opponent, so you can’t really judge much from the win.

TIP-INS

Hankerson’s game was his best yet since returning from last year’s season-pending ACL. . This was the first game all year that the Terriers had been outscored in the paint.

White has scored in double figures in all nine Syracuse games. . Lydon is 3 of 17 from 3 in his last three games. .. Dajuan Coleman had just two points after two solid efforts.

UP NEXT

Boston University: Hosts New Hampshire a week from Sunday.

Syracuse: Continues its five-game homestand next Saturday against longtime rival Georgetown on what’s been designated “Pearl Washington Day” in honor of the Syracuse legend who died earlier this year.

UConn-Syracuse rivalry game brings back memories of the best of the Big East

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 05:  Rodney Purvis #15 of the Connecticut Huskies reacts after hitting a three pointer against the Syracuse Orange during the Tire Pros Classic at Madison Square Garden on December 5, 2016 in New York City. Connecticut defeated Syracuse 52-50  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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The cliché ‘here, it just means more’ has never rang more true than it did on Monday night in Madison Square Garden.

A bad Syracuse team and a worse UConn team got together in New York City to play an awful basketball game, one where the two teams didn’t crack 100 points combined until there were 2.2 seconds left; where UConn won 52-50 despite shooting 31.4 percent from the floor because the Orange made just 25.9 percent of their field goals; where UConn did everything they could in the final minute to give the game to the Orange, including missing five free throws.

In a game between two teams that entered with a combined 8-6 record, Syracuse and UConn fans packed the Garden and created an environment that was just as rowdy, raucous and bi-partisan as a Big East tournament quarterfinal game that goes to six overtimes.

Businessmen in $5,000 suits were court side, going just as crazy as the UConn fans that packed their student section. Day-traders showed up in Orange t-shirts over their shirt and ties.

It didn’t matter that the Orange entered the game on a two-game losing streak. It didn’t matter UConn, a young team that has already lost two starters to season-ending injury, looks like a team that will be lucky to earn an invite to the NIT.

It never matters when these two former Big East rivals get together in the Basketball Mecca.

“It may be a slap in the face,” said Larry Avitabile, a Connecticut native that now calls Manhattan home, “but I hope UConn shows up as a bad loss when they show Syracuse’s NCAA tournament résumé.”


The rivalry between UConn and Syracuse is unlike any other rivalry in college basketball because of their proximity to New York City and Madison Square Garden, where the Big East has held their conference tournament since 1983.

Both fanbases claim the Big Apple as their own. Both schools consider themselves New York City’s college basketball team. None of the schools that left the Big East and none of the programs still in the conference traveled to the Garden the way that UConn and Syracuse travel to the Garden.

And the result is what you saw on Monday night.

Half of the Garden was blue.

The other half was Orange.

It simply does not get better than that.

Every season, one of the biggest talking points this time of the year is how neutral site games sterilize what makes college basketball special: the energy that comes with playing a game in front of a home crowd. The product on the court is never going to be as good as the product on the floor of any NBA game. That’s a fact of life when the best players at this level are 19 year olds a couple of years away from being able to impact an NBA game or 22 year olds that weren’t quite good enough to be able to make the jump to the pros.

And basketball at any level is never going to be a more popular than the NFL or college football. Unless you live in places like Lexington or Lawrence, college basketball probably isn’t even as important as the MLB or the NHL.

But those big, on-campus games are unparalleled in any sport at any level in this country. The experience of watching, say, UCLA’s visit to Rupp Arena on Saturday or North Carolina’s trip to Assembly Hall last week comes through on the television broadcasts.

When UConn and Syracuse square off in the Garden, it’s like two teams are playing a home game in the building.

“It’s New York City, it’s one of the best venues to play basketball in, it’s on everybody’s bucket list,” said Syracuse guard Andrew White. “Then, given the teams that were here, and the location, you’re dipping into history. This venue and this game is one of the tops all-time.”

White is a fifth-year senior that spent the last four seasons playing for Kansas in the Big 12 and Nebraska in the Big Ten. He’s seen it all. He’s played in the most electric college gyms. He knows what constitutes a great place to play a basketball game.

“I knew what to expect,” said White, who hails from southern Virginia. “I knew what I was getting into coming into this game. It’s Syracuse and UConn at the Garden. Say no more.”

College basketball needs all the games like this that it can get. It’s why those two programs would be doing a disservice to the sport if they decide to discontinue the series after the 2017 Jimmy V Classic, when they will play in the Garden for the second straight season.

Because UConn has too much talent and Kevin Ollie recruits at too high of a level to be down for that long. The Orange are just a year removed from getting to the Final Four and have plenty of young talent of their own on the roster.

Those programs will return to their rightful spots in the top 25 sooner rather than later.

And if those two fanbases can turn one of the ugliest games of the season into what we experienced in the arena on Monday night, imagine what it will be like in that building when those two teams are actually good.

 

Film Session: Nigel Hayes’ performance against Syracuse could change Wisconsin’s season

MADISON, WI - NOVEMBER 27:  Nigel Hayes #10 of the Wisconsin Badgers drives against JD Wallace #12 of the Prairie View A&M Panthers in the second half at the Kohl Center on November 27, 2016 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
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No. 17 Wisconsin, for perhaps the first time all season, finally looked like the team that was a preseason favorite to win the Big Ten regular season title on Tuesday night.

The Badgers shredded the Orange, winning 77-60, an offensive performance that only gets more impressive when you consider that there were just 64 possessions in the game.

Looking at the box score, the change seems obvious, right? Wisconsin got Ethan Happ, who we have long said is Wisconsin’s best player, more involved – he finished with 24 points and 13 boards and led the team in field goals and free throws attempted – while Bronson Koenig, who entered the game shooting 24.6 percent from three, finally found the range from distance, going 6-for-9 from beyond the arc and scoring a season-high 20 points in what was by far his most efficient game of the season.

What simply looking at the box score won’t tell you, however, is that the real difference in this game, and what could end up being the launching point for a Wisconsin Big Ten title run this season, is the way that Greg Gard used Nigel Hayes.

Or, perhaps more importantly, the way that Hayes decided to play.

For the first six games of the season, Hayes played like he was a floor-spacer.

On Tuesday night, he was the guy that you space the floor around.


Nigel Hayes was entrenched in the high-post against the Syracuse zone, and he put on an absolute clinic is how to breakdown a 2-3 zone.

His high-low passing was incredible. He used his eyes and ball-fakes to move the defense and create open threes for his teammates on the perimeter. He was a puppetmaster, and a young Syracuse team didn’t stand a chance against it.

This is important to note because this is not what Wisconsin’s zone offense has always looked like this season.

Take, for example, this possession against Georgetown from the Maui Invitational. Does this look anything like the zone offense from Tuesday night?:

Wisconsin would go on to win this game, but it wasn’t because the Badgers thoroughly dominated from the tip. Oklahoma State and, arguably, Arkansas State landed more impressive wins over that same Hoya team, and neither of them were expected to do all that much this season.

In fact, it’s been possessions like that that have bogged down the Badgers this year. As talented as Koenig is, he’s a scorer at heart, not a facilitator. Through the first three weeks of the season, he’s been where the Wisconsin offense has gone to die. He entered Tuesday night’s game 14-for-57 from three not because he’s a bad three-point shooter, but because so many of his threes have been contested jumpers off the dribble:

As Koenig proved on Tuesday night, he’s dangerous when he can take catch-and-shoot rhythm threes – all six of the threes he made were no-dribble jumpers – but without another proven playmaker on the floor, he hasn’t gotten all that many opportunities to do so.

Hayes, on the other hand, has not proven to be a good standstill shooter. I went through and watch all of the jumpers that he has taken this season, and he’s had quite a few good, clean, often wide-open looks from three. He just missed them. Maybe he’s not quite as good of a shooter as he thinks he is. Maybe he’s lost his confidence in his jumper. Maybe this is just a fluky thing that happens in a random subset of 31 three-pointers.

But whatever the issue is, it wasn’t getting answered by Hayes plopping himself behind the three-point line and bombing away. The criticism of him heading into the year was that he shot 36 percent from the floor and 29.3 percent from three as a junior, that he needed to settle less for jumpers, which is something that he was still doing early this year; through the first six games of the year, Hayes was shooting 29.0 percent from three while taking 1.5 more threes per game than he did as a junior.

In addition to missing wide-open, catch-and-shoot threes, Hayes was also missing deep, contested jumpers like these:

Here’s the thing: Hayes is probably the best playmaker on Wisconsin when he wants to be. He led the team in assists last season. We all saw how good of a passer he can be last night when he wants to be. He’s also capable of scoring in the post and beating bigger defenders to the rim. He’s the kind of versatile forward that overpowers smaller defenders and beats bigger defenders off the dribble. He was named the Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year, and when he plays like he has the last two games, he looks the part.

And it’s no coincidence that when Hayes is playing this way, Wisconsin looks like the best team in the Big Ten.