Michael Gbinije’s career-best day pushes Syracuse past N.C. State

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first_img Published on February 27, 2016 at 4:13 pm Contact Jesse: [email protected] | @dougherty_jesse All eyes were on Michael Gbinije — the five sets on the N.C. State defense, the 15 sets stretching across Syracuse’s bench, the 27,141 filling the Carrier Dome seats.After knocking down N.C. State’s Caleb Martin on the right wing, Gbinije hesitated for a second while staring down a wide-open 3. All game, the Wolfpack tried every possible way to slow Gbinije down: Martin, his twin brother Cody, gnatty point guard Anthony ‘Cat’  Barber, double teams around screens, and so on. None of it worked, and N.C. State still only trailed by five points with a little more than five minutes left in the game.Then Gbinije rose up and knocked down the 3, giving him a career-high 28 points, a career-high seven 3s and making him a career 1,000-point scorer. But that shot, even more importantly, kept N.C. State (14-15, 4-12 Atlantic Coast) from staging a comeback in a game Syracuse (19-10, 9-7) needed for its teetering NCAA Tournament hopes. The Orange won 75-66 in the end, and it was Gbinije’s 34 points, eight 3s, six assists and four defensive rebounds that got it there. The fifth-year senior’s 22 second-half points would have been a game high on their own. He also had a career-high three blocks.And, better yet, it all came on his senior day.“I know it was my last home game, I knew it was a must-win game for us, we… I don’t know, I’m at a loss for words right now,” Gbinije said after the game, and he got goosebumps when the senior day ceremony was brought up in the locker room.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“… I had no idea when I woke up today that this would happen.”It’s easy to look at Gbinije’s final lines and circle his 34 points. Points, quite simply, decide games. Points, for that reason, are eye-catching and attractive. But Gbinije’s performance on Saturday somehow transcended that number.Syracuse held Barber, who came into the game averaging an ACC- best 23.5 points per game, to 15 points and just three made field goals. The latter was Barber’s second-lowest total of the season. To slow him, Gbinije and Cooney extended their pressure at the top of the zone and Gbinije used his 6-foot-7 frame to make almost every Barber shot look like a contested one.Next was his court vision, which shined on the fastbreak but also helped the Orange breakdown N.C. State’s quick-sliding man-to-man defense. It was the sixth time this season that Gbinije finished with six or more assists. He did so while scoring in double-figures for the 29th straight game, a streak that started against the Wolfpack in the final game of last season.Jessica Sheldon | Staff PhotographerAnd when Syracuse’s offense stalled in the middle of the second half, Gbinije went off the dribble to turn broken possessions into high-percentage scoring opportunities at the line. With N.C. State within eight and the shot clock winding down, Gbinije came around a screen and drove hard into the lane to draw a shooting foul. One possession later, he threw up a hard pump fake to get Caleb Martin in the air and earned two more shots at the line.“When he’s shooting well he can’t be played, because he can step back and get his shot off. And that’s what’s really important,” SU head coach Jim Boeheim said. “… When he’s shooting the ball well he’s as good as anybody.”The senior point guard had 22 points with 7:39 remaining and Syracuse needed him to close out the game. Trevor Cooney was stone-cold from 3. So was Lydon. Richardson was the other Orange player in double-figures, buoying Gbinije’s effort with 13 points to that point, but even he couldn’t do much to break down the N.C. State defense.Gbinije answered the call. Again, and again, and then again. First by drawing those two fouls. Then by hitting the 3 that etched his name in the record books and sent the SU crowd into a frenzy. Lastly by knocking down a contested leaner from the top of the key to put the Wolfpack permanently out of reach.“Keep going,” Cooney remembers telling Gbinije after that last shot, which came with 1:21 left on the game clock. “Keep doing what you’re doing, man.”At the start of the day, Gbinije was honored along with Cooney and walk-on Christian White. He walked to halfcourt flanked his parents and with his brother in tow. He received a loud ovation from the crowd as he lifted his framed jersey, but it paled in comparison to the cheer that came when Boeheim subbed him out with nine seconds remaining.The fifth-year senior jogged off the court and gave a high-five to every one of his teammates. The crowd stayed on its feet, holding onto the moment as long as it could. When he hugged assistant coach Gerry McNamara, he finally let out a smile after staying stoic for nearly 40 minutes of game time.It was the best individual performance of Syracuse’s season, and it came at a time that was both poetic and opportune.“It was his game. I mean he had a tremendous game, probably as good a game as any senior has had that I can recall,” Boeheim said. “He was great tonight. He was the difference.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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