Men's Basketball

John Gillon puts stranglehold on point guard spot in Syracuse’s best win of season, 70-55 over Miami

Jacob Greenfeld | Asst. Photo Editor

Gillon, who averages 8.8 points per game, had only 10 assists in his previous two games before getting 11 against Miami on Wednesday.

Jim Boeheim preached earlier this season that it doesn’t matter who starts. Whoever’s in the game has to produce or else they’ll sub out. The dynamic was most clear at point guard, the position Syracuse’s head coach has been most critical of all year and the spot Frank Howard and John Gillon have shared.

Until Wednesday.

After 14 games of inconsistent play from the duo, Boeheim settled on Gillon and gave him a leash long enough for the fifth-year graduate transfer to commit five turnovers in a season-high 39 minutes. He also had a season-high 11 assists in the first game he’s started without Howard also in the lineup.

“When you’re hesitating, you’re thinking about the other guy coming in, I think that’s what one of our problems has been,” Boeheim said. “I think we have to go with somebody in there for a while.”

Gillon finished with eight points on 3-of-7 shooting in Syracuse’s (9-6, 1-1 Atlantic Coast) 70-55 win over Miami (11-3, 1-1) on Wednesday night in the Carrier Dome, the Orange’s first against a major-conference opponent this season. SU was led for the first time by just one player at point guard for nearly the entire game, as Howard played just 65 seconds.


The 6-foot point guard got off to a hot start, earning his minutes. He made a steal and then drove inside to draw the defense’s attention before feeding a bounce pass to Tyler Roberson for a layup that tied the game at 12.

Two minutes later, he hit a 3 from the right wing off an Andrew White pass to tie the game at 15. Gillon sauntered back down the court with his chest puffed out and a smile on his face. Three minutes after that, he set up Tyler Lydon for a 3 from the top of the arc to pull Syracuse within one at 21-20. Lydon high-fived Gillon on his way toward the defensive end.

As the Orange treaded water early on, Gillon’s most important performance of the year was a life preserver in SU’s biggest win of the season.

“Whatever it takes, man. It sucks to lose,” Gillon said. “… If that’s what coach feels like that’s what I need to do and that’s what I can do and he’s trusting me with that, it makes me even more happy that I can be in that job.”

Boeheim said on Dec. 27 that he wants his point guards to direct their teammates more. After Syracuse gave up 96 to Boston College on Sunday, Boeheim said he needed more from his point guards.

On Wednesday, Gillon ran the show.


Gillon (4). Photo by Jacob Greenfeld | Asst. Photo Editor

“He’s been a little bit better (than Howard),” Boeheim said. “But (Gillon) has the ability to make shots from the outside and you know Frank hasn’t shown any indication that he can make a shot. John’s a little quicker, gets in the lane a little bit better.”

With Gillon’s 11 assists and command over the offense also came his occasional mistakes. He tried an alley-oop pass to Roberson that went too high and the ball soared out of bounds. He chucked another pass out of bounds with under four minutes to play in the first half. Two and a half minutes after that, Gillon tried shaking and baking with several crossovers on the right wing before fumbling the ball.

Following that play, Howard subbed in for the final 65 seconds of the half as Gillon headed to the bench with four turnovers. He didn’t even make eye contact with Boeheim. He knew he had to be more careful.

And he was. Gillon committed only one second-half giveaway, which occurred with the game already in hand, as Syracuse pulled away in the final 13 minutes.

“I think he was poised,” White said. “He just made good basketball plays. He was confident.”

Gillon said he plays better when he’s confident. Having a short leash bothered him. He never knew when he would or wouldn’t sub out and it was constantly stuck in the back of his head.

He got the nod as the sole point guard in SU’s lineup on Wednesday and made the most of it.

“I’m tired of not being able to go out and give my best,” Gillon said. “… I wanted to set the tone when we play.”


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