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John Gillon stars in Orange’s comeback against NC State

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John Gillon put the team on his back tonight as the Orange stormed their way back in the second half.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at North Carolina State
John Gillon was Syracuse’s hero against North Carolina State.
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

That was something special. Syracuse Orange fans are forever in debt to John Gillon after that herculean effort against NC State. He’ll now be remembered in Syracuse basketball history, despite wearing Orange for just one season. The six-foot point guard finished with 43 points, which is the fourth-highest single-game total in school history.

Those 43 points were created by nine threes, tying the Syracuse record. It seemed like Gillon couldn’t miss for the final nine minutes of the game, leading the Orange to a roaring comeback. SU found themselves trailing 75-59 with 8:45 remaining in the game. That’s when Gillon electrified Raleigh’s PNC Arena.

In the final 8:45 of the game Gillon scored 27 points to carry the Orange back. His leadership was exceptional, but the highlight of the game was his game-tying shot with one second left. It came just moments after a would-be dagger from the Wolfpack’s Maverick Rowan, who had 31 points of his own (thanks, John). But Gillon and SU refused to be counted out.

Gillon also used his exceptional free-throw shooting to seal the deal for the Orange. He hit all 14 of his free-throws, a season-high for the point guard. Gillon had the team on his back throughout the second half, finding open shooters to help him lead the comeback. He finished with nine assists helping his teammates rediscover the rhythm they had in the first half.

In the last two games, Gillon has a combined 64 points and 20 assists, a stat that has more than helped Syracuse try to turn their season around. He has solidified himself as the team’s starting point guard, and if the Orange find themselves back in March they could be in pretty good hands.

Gillon’s ability to get in the lane goes underappreciated. He typically finds a way to get to the rim, collapsing the defense and allowing shooters to find open spots beyond the arc. He’s an elite passer and if the defense gives him any window to pass through, he will be able to get the ball in the right spot — as seen against North Carolina State.

The Orange need wins like this one for them to have any chance of making it back to the Big Dance. Gillon has led the momentum back to relevance for the Orange (now 14-9 and 6-4 in ACC play). A game like last night’s is bound to have SU and their starting point guard back in the news, and hopefully the NCAA Tournament conversation soon.

NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at North Carolina State Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Gillon had heard the negative talk about his play, but ever since the Orange tipped off against Wake Forest, those haters have been silenced. He’s been crucial in the last three, and a needed scoring threat in the last two. Going into this matchup, he was only averaging 8.9 points per game, and even less in league games. Now, he looks like a completely different player.

The heart of this basketball team was in no way questionable tonight, and that is in large part to Gillon’s leadership. He made the right plays, but most importantly he wanted to make those plays. He found himself with the ball down the stretch and followed through with that responsibility.

Thank you John Gillon. Tonight was your night. Now Syracuse goes on to fight another day.