Men's Basketball

Syracuse pulls off 82-72 upset of No. 6 Florida State for 1st signature win of season

Codie Yan | Staff Photographer

Andrew White led the Orange with 24 points in its biggest win of the season

Like a hoard of sardines, students packed as close as they could to the court. Less than a minute remained and Syracuse was finally pulling away. This, a double-digit win against the No. 6 team in the country, is what the Orange had been missing.

Once the final buzzer sounded, Jim Boeheim Court became a mosh pit. SU graduate assistant Katie Kolinski guided John Gillon through the mayhem so the player who singlehandedly closed out the upset wouldn’t get hurt. Andrew White, who scored a game-high 24 points, snaked through the crowd to be interviewed on live television. Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton sent his players to the locker room instead of having them shake hands so they wouldn’t get caught in the crowd.

Whether or not you agree with the ethics of court-storming in the Carrier Dome is for another day. The Orange finally got its first signature win, the one that’s evaded SU head coach Jim Boeheim for this entire season. In an 82-72 upset over the No. 6 Seminoles (18-4, 6-3 Atlantic Coast) on Saturday afternoon, Syracuse (13-9, 5-4) showed everyone that this season isn’t over yet.

“It’s a huge game for us,” said Tyler Lydon, who tallied 14 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks. “We need games like this. To be honest, we need every game we play from here on out.”

That’s what this season has come to feel like, especially with no road wins and now only one victory against a ranked team to the Orange’s pedigree. And despite an 18-point halftime lead, its largest advantage at the break in conference play over the last 20 games, Syracuse almost let its first notable win slip away.


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A 44-26 halftime cushion, after what Boeheim said was the best first half his team has played all season, gave just enough comfort for when the Seminoles showed why they’re the No. 6 team in the country. Sophomore Dwayne Bacon and freshman Jonathan Isaac could both be NBA Draft lottery selections. Xavier Rathan-Mayes scored 30 points in less than five minutes during a game almost two years ago. Those three lived up to the resumes they entered the Carrier Dome with, combining for 43 second-half points.

Florida State cut its deficit to two on multiple occasions, but the hosts always had an answer. Whether it came in the form of an White 3-pointer, a Lydon one-handed putback slam for the highlight reels or a Gillon drive to the rim, the Orange didn’t fold like its track record against ranked teams this season might indicate it would.

“We weathered the storm at the perfect time,” White said, “because I would say the last minute or two is when we buckled down.”

With Syracuse leading by only two and 1:21 remaining, Gillon did what he’s so often struggled to this season. He attacked the rim, a defender towering in front of him, and spun an acrobatic layup off the backboard. Instead of rimming out like most of his shots at the basket have in his mercurial first season at SU, this one fell. He fell along with it, past the baseline, pleading for a call before jogging back the other way.

Gillon scored Syracuse’s final 13 points after scoring just 12 in his previous 91 minutes of game time entering Saturday. Florida State continued to foul in desperation, but it didn’t matter. The Orange was going to get the win it hasn’t been able to. Against Wisconsin. Against North Carolina. Against Notre Dame.

“When it was close, we made plays,” Boeheim said. “…we kind of hung on and were tough at the end.”

After several wins this season, players have identified that game as a turning point. Each time, Syracuse has struggled to string together momentum to really turn its season around. For some, like freshman Tyus Battle, this win felt different than any of Syracuse’s first 12. For others, like the Orange’s most seasoned vet, it’s just another check mark on a season still clinging to life.

“It feels big just because it’s two in a row and any win on a Saturday going into a road test is good for you,” White said. “…but we can turn around and lose the next two games if we don’t come in with the mindset we need to have. You want to take that win, put it in your pocket, learn from it and let’s try to improve and go get one or two more.”

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