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Gillon’s shot at buzzer lifts Syracuse past Blue Devils

John Gillon

Syracuse's John Gillon shoots the game winning shot in the final seconds of an NCAA college basketball game against Duke in Syracuse, N.Y., Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. Syracuse won 78-75. (AP Photo/Nick Lisi)

Syracuse’s John Gillon shoots the game winning shot in the final seconds of an NCAA college basketball game against Duke in Syracuse, N.Y., Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. Syracuse won 78-75. (AP Photo/Nick Lisi)

By John Kekis

AP Sports Writer

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — John Gillon had done it before, just not quite on such a grand stage.

With Syracuse desperate for a signature victory in what has been a so-so season, Gillon hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key at the buzzer, and Syracuse upset No. 10 Duke 78-75 on Wednesday night in front of a raucous Carrier Dome crowd of 30,331.

Gillon had hit a clutch 3-pointer three weeks ago at the regulation buzzer to force overtime at North Carolina State and the Orange prevailed behind his career-high 43 points. This topped that.

“It’s No. 1. We needed this,” said Gillon, a graduate transfer from Colorado State. “I’ve always seen myself as a guard at this level and never had the opportunity until this year. Just being able to play in this game, play against Duke, it was like a dream come true for me. I’m just glad I could play like that on that stage.”

With just 7.5 seconds left on the clock after a Duke miss, Gillon drove to the top of the key and banked in a desperation shot to send the huge crowd into a frenzy as they stormed the court.

“This team fights. They do what they can do to come back. They keep battling,” Orange coach Jim Boeheim said. “It’s been a fight all year long.”

Syracuse (17-12, 9-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) had lost three straight, all by six points or fewer, and that skid had come after three straight wins that were decided by seven points or fewer. The Orange needed another signature victory to go with its two top-10 wins to bolster its resume for a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

“They’ve been in so many close games and they’ve hit big shots,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “So when it got down at the end, they’ve been in those situations before and they’ve performed well. They hit the shot they were supposed to miss and we were supposed to win. They screwed up my game plan.”

Duke (22-6, 10-5 ACC) had won seven straight and entered the game tied for second in the ACC with Louisville, a game behind North Carolina, which hosted the Cardinals later Wednesday night.

Gillon finished with a game-high 26 points and Tyus Battle had 18 for Syracuse in a game that featured 11 ties.

Luke Kennard led Duke with 23 points, Jayson Tatum had 19 points and 13 rebounds for his second double-double of the season. They combined for 11 of Duke’s 16 assists. Grayson Allen finished with eight points.

The crowd began chanting “Let’s Go Orange!” as soon as Boeheim greeted Krzyzewski before the opening tip. And when Battle scored eight points in just over 2 minutes to key an Orange rally that tied it at 47, the Carrier Dome was rocking like yesteryear as the Orange hit 9 of their first 11 shots in the second half.

“I figured it out toward the end of the first half where they struggled defensively,” said Gillon, who was 7 for 9 after the break, including the layup with 37 seconds left that tied the score for the final time at 75. “I just felt like there wasn’t an answer for me in the second half.”

The game was tied six times in the final 10:12 and the Blue Devils were keyed by Amile Jefferson. Held scoreless in the first half, he scored nine straight points and finished with 14.

BIG PICTURE

Duke: Kennard has made at least one 3-pointer in an ACC-best 31 straight games and entered the game shooting 48.5 percent from deep in league play. … Jefferson needs eight points to become the ninth Duke player under Krzyzewski to notch 1,000 points and 850 rebounds.

Syracuse: Gillon has made 43 consecutive free throws, a school record … Lydon has played every minute of the last 10 games, which includes two overtime contests. … Coach K and Boeheim are tied 4-4 in head-to-head meetings.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Duke, the preseason No. 1 team in the AP poll, had rebounded from its midseason slump when it lost four of seven. The Blue Devils don’t figure to move up.

NUMBERS

The game, which featured two of the top three winningest coaches in Division 1 history — Krzyzewski (1,065) and Boeheim (901) — attracted the largest on-campus college basketball crowd this season. It was the 81st crowd to surpass 30,000 in Carrier Dome history, first in two years, and first for a weeknight game since 1990. Duke had played Syracuse in the dome twice, both on Saturdays, and both drew 35,446, a dome record.

UP NEXT

Duke is at Miami on Saturday.

Syracuse travels to No. 7 Louisville on Sunday.

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