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John Gillon proving crucial to Syracuse’s ACC success

Can Gillon be the elite point guard that SU needs in the final stretch of the season?

NCAA Basketball: Florida State at Syracuse
Syracuse Orange guard John Gillon (4) drives the ball past Florida State Seminoles guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes (22) during the second half of a game at the Carrier Dome. Syracuse won the contest 82-72. 
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse Orange point guard John Gillon is proving to be much more important than most can see from the naked eye.

After his most important — and best — performance of the year, the same question seems to emerge: Can he build off of it?

The answer, right now, is nobody knows.

He scored 21 points and dished out 11 assists on Saturday against No. 6 Florida State, and hit 13-of-14 free throws in the 82-72 victory. He was simply terrific.

When Gillon scores 14 or more points, Syracuse is 6-0. When he dishes out six or more assists, SU is 9-1.

And during ACC games, Gillon leads the conference with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.90, and is second in assists per game with 6.4. His 58 total assists are second-best to NC State freshman Dennis Smith Jr.

These numbers are also boosted by back-to-back 11 assist games against Pittsburgh and Miami — both victories at the Carrier Dome.

But we’re starting to see a trend. As John Gillon goes, so go the Orange.

Despite his early season struggles against high-major teams, Gillon has turned it around and is proven to be a key to SU’s success.

His free-throw shooting down the stretch against FSU was equally as important to anything he’s done all season. He proved himself to be that dominant free-throw shooter that he was last season at Colorado State, where he shot over 88 percent. He’s shooting just under 79 percent from the stripe this season.

NCAA Basketball: Boston College at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

It hasn’t all been pretty this season for SU’s point guards, but Gillon’s performance on Saturday may have sparked something. He played with a certain confidence that we haven’t witnessed consistently, but more importantly brought flow to an offense that has been stagnant at points during the season.

We’ve seen this before. He’s had 20-point and 10-plus-assist games before, which have been followed up with off games. That happens to everyone — but the key, as always, is consistency.

What will happen on Wednesday, on the road, against NC State? Will we see vintage John Gillon, or beginning of the season John Gillon who was a turnover machine at times and struggled to generate any offensive flow?

Syracuse doesn’t need Gillon to score 21 points every game. That’s what Andrew White, Tyler Lydon and Tyus Battle are for. What it does need, however, is a floor general who takes care of the basketball and finds his teammates. If he can do that, the Orange can make some noise with nine regular season games remaining.