NEW YORK — Syracuse won the latest unofficial battle for the right to be called “New York’s College Team” with a 68-63 win in the Gotham Classic in Madison Square Garden on Sunday afternoon. It followed a week of St. John’s coaches and players wanting to reclaim the City as its own.
Cabs and signs pepper the New York City area with advertisements pronouncing the Orange as the state’s top athletics program. But in the days leading up to Sunday’s matchup, St. John’s thought otherwise.
“To me, our school is in New York. We’re in New York city so naturally what’s inherent in that is we are New York’s team. This is our zip code, our neighborhood. It’s our home court,” St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin said to The Torch. “But I don’t have any problem with Syracuse fans that think that they’re New York’s team in some way. They don’t have a campus here. They don’t have a home court here, we do.”
While Syracuse doesn’t have an official home court in New York City, it has certainly treated Madison Square Garden like its own. Over the past 10 years, Syracuse fans have come out in droves to the Garden each time the team has played there, and “Let’s Go Orange!” chants have universally drowned out any pro-Johnnies chants.
But that wasn’t the case on Sunday, with an electric back-and-forth between the two fan bases. Though the crowd was still pro-Syracuse (about 60-40), St. John’s fans overtook their Orange counterparts during a second half when the Red Storm took a late 60-58 lead.
Syracuse ultimately regained control of the game, but the tightly contested game showed that St. John’s has dramatically closed the gap, both in fans in the seats, and talent on the court.
“I really do think it depends on what school you went to and what school you’re closer to,” Syracuse guard Michael Gbinije said. “We definitely have a large advertisement system going on and we’re a good school athletically and St. John’s as well. So it’s games like these that kind of answer it. But it’s kind of close.”
Closer, at least, but the Red Storm still has some catching up to do.
With the win, Syracuse won its eighth straight against the Red Storm, a streak that dates back to 2007. They’ve also won 15 of the last 16 contests between the two teams.
“I’m not going to say we’re New York’s College Team to start something,” forward CJ Fair said, “but we just wanted to come into the Garden and put on a show.”
Syracuse forward Jerami Grant was a little more diplomatic in his response: “They might be the city’s team and we’re just New York’s team.”