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Well, at least one of those seniors played in this game...

Technically, there are no must-wins in college basketball until you get to the NCAA Tournament. Because it's single-elimination. But, You've gotta get there. Which puts a certain amount of emphasis on regular season games. Particularly conference games at home late in the season. After losing two straight, Syracuse was in a position where it needed to beat North Carolina State on Saturday in order to keep the bubble talk at a safe distance. So, not a must-win, but a win-to-keep-some-heat-off-you. And on the last home game of the season, where the seniors are honored, you look to your seniors to lead the way. For the Orange, that's Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney (note: Christian White is a senior but chose to sit out this season to maintain eligibility to transfer after this season and play immediately). Cooney scored the first two points for Syracuse, and then literally disappeared for the rest of the game. Silent G, however, chose to have a career game and lead the team to victory, 75-66.

  • Gbinije had a day. A Senior Day. A Career Day. His career-high 34 points came on 11-18 shooting, including an absolutely impressive 8-13 from three, and 4-6 from the line. The starting senior point guard also contributed six assists and three blocks in 39+ minutes of play.
  • Look, without Gbinije, Syracuse likely loses this by a ton. From early on, it was apparent that he had the hot hand, and to the team's credit, they kept feeding him (or, as PG, he took it upon himself to create his shot).
  • How important was he? Well, Syracuse had little to no inside game, especially in the first half. The Wolfpack defense was active enough and tight enough to force Syracuse into long shots. Enter: Gbinije.
  • The only other double digit scorers for Syracuse were Malachi Richardson (13) and Tyler Lydon (11), both of whom have played well lately and both of whom had been shooting well in practice lately, according to Coach Boeheim. In fact, if Lydon's shots had fallen, he could have had a monster game too.
  • One of eight. Whose shooting stat was that? Senior Trevor Cooney. He got lots of good looks, they just weren't falling. He was shut out from three. Three of his five points came from the line in what ended up being garbage time. He didn't even have any blocks or steals. Usually if Trevor has a down offensive game, he'll at least play amazing defense to make up for it. Not so much on Saturday.
  • DaJuan Coleman battled out there, as Boeheim put it. And he did. Seven points and seven rebounds is solid, particularly for the abuse he was getting. The season's not over, but I'm thoroughly impressed with his progress and can't wait to see what he can do next year.
  • How many minutes did Tyler Roberson play? 14. How many of them were in the second half? Four. He was "plugged in" for a couple plays, but otherwise was a non-factor, which led to his benching. I guess the public spanking from Boeheim didn't have the "light a fire under your ass" effect Boeheim wanted it to have.
  • Syracuse did a great job of not allowing NCState to beat them, because it almost could have happened several times. I think the players recognized the importance of the game. I think the Dome crowd, which for a lot of the game was just there & taking it in, really helped to create an atmosphere to give the Orange that little bit of spark to seize the moment and not give up the lead.
And so, no more basketball in the Dome until November (God willing). Due to current standings, remaining schedules, and tie-breaking scenarios, Syracuse is looking like a lock at the 8-seed for next week's ACC Tournament. But before we get there, we'll see a game at North Carolina on Monday (for the final Big Monday of the season) and then a game at Florida State on Saturday to close out the regular season. Should be fine with a split. A sweep would be phenomenal. Dropping both would be potentially devastating. Just don't be dumb out there, Syracuse.

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