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Syracuse 75, NC State 66: Michael Gbinije Carries Orange on Senior Day

Michael Gbinije had what he called his best game ever, and it was enough to help the Orange top the Wolfpack.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

With Syracuse's lead slipping away, the Orange turned to the only player it could on Saturday afternoon: Michael Gbinije. With five minutes remaining and SU's lead down to just five, he converted on a 3-pointer from the right wing — a shot that put the Orange up 64-56 over NC State Wolfpack and sent a previously restless Carrier Dome crowd into a frenzy.

In the game's next five minutes, Gbinije, playing on his Senior Day, would score six more points — essentially single-handedly preventing the Wolfpack from seriously threatening a comeback.

Then, with less than 10 seconds left, Gbinije exited a game at the Carrier Dome for likely the last time to a rousing ovation. As he made his way down the bench, he accepted a series of high fives and hugs from teammates and coaches.

"You saying that just gave me goosebumps, because now I'm replaying it," Gbinije said to a reporter who asked about that moment. "It's emotional."

On a day that he surely hopes was his last game at the Carrier Dome — Syracuse could play here again in the scenario that it misses the NCAA Tournament and receives an NIT bid — Gbinije was spectacular. He finished 11-of-18 from the field and 8-of-13 from 3-point range, good for a career-high 34 points while adding six assists and three blocks, leading Syracuse to a 75-66 win over the Wolfpack.

Afterward, Gbinije, surrounded by reporters at his Carrier Dome locker for likely the final time, called his Senior Day the best game he's ever had.

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim went a step further.

"He had a tremendous game, probably as good as any senior has ever had that I can recall," Boeheim said.

Prior to tipoff, Gbinije and fellow fifth-year senior Trevor Cooney were each introduced one-by-one. Escorted by their respective parents, they, along with senior walk-on Christian White, walked to halfcourt and were presented with framed jerseys.

But during the game, one thing was clear: today, much like this season has been, was largely Gbinije's show above all else.

It took the fifth-year senior guard nearly eight minutes into Saturday's game to get going, but once he started, he never let up.

After notching his first made 3-pointer at the 12:15 mark of the first half, Gbinije connected on three more shots from beyond the arc before the intermission and came out firing after the break, scoring 22 points in the second half —€” a total that would have been a game-high on its own.

And it was essential for the Orange that Gbinije did what he did, because nobody else was able to get much going offensively. Trevor Cooney, also playing out his Senior Day, went 1-of-8 from the field for just five points. Tyler Lydon made only one of seven 3-point attempts. Malachi Richardson was strong in the first half but faltered in the second, when he scored only four points.

"It just came down to Mike having to put us on his back," Boeheim said.

Gbinije entered the day needing 28 points to reach 1,000 career points for the Orange, meaning he eclipsed that mark fairly easily, though he said that he had "no idea" he reached the milestone.

He also said afterward that the hoop looked bigger than it normally does.

"I was in the zone," he said. "I was hitting shots."

His performance came at arguably the perfect time, as it helped SU, fresh off of two losses, to a win it probably needed to keep itself, for now, squarely in the NCAA Tournament picture and not dangerously on the bubble.

But in an even bigger picture, Saturday was the culmination of Gbinije's collegiate career that started more than four years ago at Duke, where he mostly rode the bench as a freshman before transferring to Syracuse.

Now, though, he says he sometimes forgets he was ever even at Duke. Syracuse is home — "a great place ... except for the weather" — and Saturday will go down as the best basketball memory yet, he said.

"When I woke up today, I had no idea that this would happen," he said. "... I'm at a loss for words."