2012 Basketball Preview

The Top 10: A rundown of the all-time highlights for Syracuse in its proud run in the Big East

Daily Orange file photo

Gerry McNamara played in some of the most memorable games in Syracuse basketball history. The former guard scored a total of 65 points in the 2006 Big East tournament.

Syracuse, along with Georgetown, St. John’s and Providence, was a founding member of the Big East in 1979. Thirty-three years later, Syracuse has won the conference tournament five times and the Big East regular-season crown 10 times. The Orange, the fifth-winningest Division-I men’s basketball team in history, has missed the NCAA Tournament only seven times since the Big East was founded. But on July 1, 2013, Syracuse will leave the conference it helped create more than a quarter of a century ago. Here’s a look at the 10 best Big East games the Orange has played in:

No. 1, Marathon men

March 12, 2009

The game took three hours and 46 minutes, and ended at 1:22 a.m. SU won 127-117 in a game with 102 total points scored after the buzzer. Eight players fouled out. Six registered double-doubles. The Big East quarterfinal game between Syracuse and Connecticut that went into six overtimes was one for the ages. Syracuse point guard Jonny Flynn had 34 points and 11 assists in a game-high 67 minutes, only three fewer minutes than were played. Paul Harris added 29 points and 22 rebounds in the contest. Syracuse didn’t lead in overtime before the sixth extra period.

No. 2, “The Shot”

Jan. 21, 1984

Pearl Washington made national headlines and cemented his legend in a game against Boston College inside the Carrier Dome. Martin Clark of BC made a free throw to tie the game with only seconds left on the game clock. But Clark missed the second. Washington got the rebound, raced down the court and let a shot fly from half court as time expired. He made it. As the ball left his hands and eventually went in the basket, Washington continued running all the way to the locker room. Washington had hit “The Shot” and sent the Dome into a frenzy.

No. 3, “Just me and 34,616 of my friends”

Feb. 27, 2010

The week leading up to No. 4 Syracuse’s matchup with No. 7 Villanova included hundreds of students camping out inside the Carrier Dome, T-shirts that read “Just me and 34,616 of my friends” and College GameDay paying a visit to a snowy Syracuse University that had late classes canceled earlier in the week. The hype surrounding the game was well deserved, as Syracuse set an on-campus attendance record of 34,616 and dominated Villanova 95-77. The win put the Orange at 27-2 on the season and showcased the depth that placed the team among the country’s elite.

No. 4, The rivalry begins

Feb. 13, 1980

It was the final game for Syracuse at Manley Field House before moving into the Carrier Dome. And it didn’t go according to plan. Georgetown mounted a huge comeback in the game, beating No. 2 Syracuse 52-50 and snapping the Orange’s 57-game home winning streak. Georgetown coach John Thompson grabbed a microphone after the game and said, “Manley Field House is officially closed.” Thompson’s words set off a rivalry that has been raging ever since. While Manley Field House’s tenure as a men’s basketball venue came to an end, a bitter rivalry was born.

No. 5, Court stormed and oranges on the floor

Jan. 28, 1985

Pearl Washington did it again. This time with a jump shot with eight seconds remaining, giving No. 9 Syracuse a 65-63 victory over No. 2 Georgetown in the Carrier Dome. The game ended the Hoyas’ road winning streak at 26 games. Georgetown had a chance to win the game in the closing seconds after Washington’s jumper put Syracuse ahead 64-63. But a Georgetown long inbounds pass sailed high with six seconds left. The Hoyas then put Washington on the line, and he made one of two with four seconds remaining. Georgetown then missed a 35-foot desperation heave. That made the more than 32,000 fans in the Carrier Dome go wild, as many stormed the court. Earlier in the game, the fans had disrupted the game by throwing oranges onto the floor.

No. 6, McNamara and Syracuse do the impossible

March 11, 2006

Syracuse won its second consecutive Big East championship with a 65-61 victory over sixth-seeded Pittsburgh, becoming only the third team to repeat as conference tournament champions. Syracuse, the No. 9 seed in the tournament, became the lowest seed ever to win the Big East championship. Syracuse senior Gerry McNamara scored 65 points in the tournament and was awarded the Dave Gavitt Trophy, given to the tournament’s most outstanding player. Syracuse had finished 7-9 in the Big East that year and would have likely been left out of the NCAA Tournament had it not pulled off four wins in four days.

No. 7, The three-technical game

March 5, 1990

A then-record crowd of 33,015 in the Carrier Dome witnessed an 89-87 overtime victory against No. 7 Georgetown. Syracuse, No. 10 at the time, defeated the Hoyas in a game that featured a 10-point play. Georgetown coach John Thompson picked up three technical fouls on the same play, resulting in a 10-point possession for Syracuse. Syracuse forward Derrick Coleman finished with 27 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, while Stephen Thompson had 15 points. Both were seniors, with Coleman becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft. That year’s team would eventually be upset by Minnesota in the NCAA Tournament.

No. 8, Syracuse wins its first conference crown

March 7, 1981

Syracuse defeated Villanova 83-80 in a three-overtime game in the Carrier Dome that gave the Orange its first Big East championship in school history. At the end of the third overtime, Leo Rautins tipped in a missed shot with three seconds left to give the Orange the lead 81-80. Rautins would be named the tournament MVP. That was the end of the good news. The Big East conference, only two years old at this point, did not yet have an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. So Syracuse was snubbed by the selection committee, ending its streak of eight consecutive seasons with a tournament bid. The team would finish the season 22-12, ultimately losing to Tulsa 86-84 in the NIT Finals.

No. 9, McNamara’s last game

March 5, 2006

A reported 33,633, at that time an all-time NCAA record for an on-campus regular-season game, came to send off Gerry McNamara, one of the most beloved players in Orange basketball history. More than 3,000 fans — dubbed “McNamara’s Band” by the media — came from the senior’s hometown of Scranton, Pa. McNamara’s 130th consecutive start was honored with a pregame ceremony. McNamara scored a game-high 29 points in the game, but No. 4 Villanova escaped the Carrier Dome on an emotional night with a win. Senior Day would set the stage for a postseason in which McNamara and the Orange won the Big East championship in dramatic fashion before losing to Texas A&M in the Big Dance.

No. 10, Upset on the road to a national title

Feb. 1, 2003

No. 24 Syracuse edged No. 2 Pittsburgh in the Carrier Dome by a score of 67-65. Syracuse’s Jeremy McNeil, then backup for Craig Forth at center, hit two free throws to tie the game with 46.9 seconds left, then converted his only field-goal attempt of the game with three seconds to go in the game. On the season, McNeil was four for 14 from the free-throw stripe. The attendance at the game — 30,303 — was the season’s largest in the nation to that point. The win pushed Syracuse to 14-3 on the year, with the 2003 season ending with the school’s lone national championship.

—Compiled by Jon Harris, asst. sports editor, jdharr04@syr.edu

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