SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Twice in the waning minutes, Syracuse guard John Gillon penetrated the Wake Forest defense and made the Demon Deacons pay.
First, he found center Taurean Thompson for an easy three-point play to give Syracuse a 67-61 lead with 4:25 remaining. Then his drive and kick resulted in a wide-open Andrew White 3-pointer from the right wing to break a tie game at the 1:23 mark.
“Everybody touched the ball,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “It was just perfect ball movement.”
So with half a minute left and Wake Forest trailing 71-70, Wake Forest used help defense to cut off Gillon’s driving lane. But this time he found sophomore forward Tyler Lydon for a deep 3-pointer on the left side.
That shot put the Deacons in a deficit they couldn’t recover from, ultimately losing 81-76 in front of 22,262 in the Carrier Dome on Tuesday night. Wake Forest (12-8, 3-5 ACC) never got off a shot to tie or lead in the final 90 seconds as the Orange (12-9, 4-4) used intentional fouls to keep the Deacons at the free-throw stripe.
Sophomore forward John Collins logged his eighth double-double of the season, finishing with 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting and 12 rebounds. Sophomore guard Bryant Crawford added 13 points and gave the Demon Deacons one last bit of hope when he made a corner 3 to cut Syracuse’s lead to one with 20 seconds left.
For Syracuse, White and Lydon combined to shoot 8 of 17 from beyond the arc. White, a graduate transfer from Nebraska, finished with a season-high 27 points and made all 10 of his free throws — including a pair to put the Orange ahead by three with nine seconds left.
Lydon racked up 15 points and eight rebounds while Thompson, a freshman, excelled in the pick-and-roll game en route to pouring in 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting.
Gillon, who took only four shots, making two, made his contributions felt on the court more than the box score.
“We should have played better ball-screen defense,” Wake Forest head coach Danny Manning said. “That didn’t bother us in the first half; in the second half, he was able to turn the corner and make some plays for his teammates.”
Before Syracuse’s late-game run and the ensuing drawn-out free-throw fest, Wake Forest had an opportunity to pull away midway through the second half.
Brandon Childress and Doral Moore combined for an 8-0 run that gave the Demon Deacons a 55-47 lead — the first three-score lead for either team in the game. But Syracuse battled back.
Three-pointers from Gillon and Tyler bookended a 10-2 counter run that included Thompson swatting a Mitchell Wilbekin layup to force a shot-clock violation.
A Dinos Mitoglou dunk put the Deacons back in front on the ensuing possession, but Wake Forest was never able to fully regain the momentum afterward.
Wake Forest returns to action when it hosts No. 17 Duke (15-5, 3-4) on Saturday at 3 p.m.
SYRACUSE 81, WAKE FOREST 76
WAKE FOREST (12-8) Collins 9-14 5-6 23, Mitoglou 2-4 1-2 5, Arians 1-5 0-0 3, Crawford 4-10 3-4 13, Woods 2-5 2-2 6, Moore 2-4 4-6 8, Childress 3-7 2-3 10, Wilbekin 3-10 0-0 8. Totals 26-59 17-23 76.
SYRACUSE (12-9) Lydon 5-12 2-2 15, Thompson 7-10 4-7 18, Battle 3-9 3-5 9, White 6-15 10-10 27, Gillon 2-4 1-2 6, Roberson 2-2 1-2 5, Coleman 0-1 1-2 1, Howard 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-54 22-30 81.
Halftime–Wake Forest 32-29. 3-Point Goals–Wake Forest 7-24 (Childress 2-4, Crawford 2-6, Wilbekin 2-6, Arians 1-5, Woods 0-1, Mitoglou 0-2), Syracuse 9-24 (White 5-11, Lydon 3-6, Gillon 1-3, Battle 0-4). Fouled Out–None. Rebounds–Wake Forest 29 (Collins 12), Syracuse 29 (Lydon 9). Assists–Wake Forest 16 (Crawford, Woods 5), Syracuse 18 (Gillon 6). Total Fouls–Wake Forest 25, Syracuse 19. A–22,262 (35,446).