SYRACUSE, N.Y. — 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.