Philadelphia – Saturday’s 75-71 overtime loss to Villanova was the 26th and final Big East game between the two teams in Philly, and with both of the Orange defeats this season coming against Philadelphia-based schools; one might think SU wants nothing to do with the City of Brotherly Love anymore.
But come March, Orange Nation would probably love to see Philadelphia again, this time as the destination for second-third round NCAA games being played in the Wells Fargo Center, the closest location to Syracuse.
As we’ve written before, the ‘Cuse is the only Big East team never to have played the Wildcats at their suburban, cozy, on-campus 6500-seat Pavilion, just off traffic-clogged Lancaster Avenue smack in the middle of the famed Main Line, because there were always too many more tickets to sell to well-traveling Orange alumni and fans (a nice crowd of 18,272 watched Saturday’s 11:00 am tip-off).
All league games against Nova since 1981 have been played at either the historic Palestra (capacity 8,722), the demolished Spectrum (18,168), or since 1997 the current Wells Fargo Center (20,378) which has also been known as the CoreStates Center, the First Union Center and the Wachovia Center.
Three February games in Philly, one in each of the buildings stands out to these eyes:
Feb. 17, 1981-In the first conference game in Philly against the Wildcats at the famed (opened in 1927) Palestra on the University of Pennsylvania campus, Hall of Fame big man Dolph Schayes, having traveled down from the Syracuse suburbs to watch his son Danny (1978-81) and the Orangemen play in the game, loudly disputed some second-half foul calls against his son from his seat behind the SU bench.
After giving the officials a verbal lashing late in the game, Schayes was escorted by security from his seat as Villanova held on for an 88-78 win, and later had to be restrained going after the refs as they made their way to the locker room.
Feb. 23, 1993-In a play eerily reminiscent of one of the most famous in college basketball history involving Duke’s Grant Hill and Christian Laettner the year before against Kentucky, and going towards the exact same basket in the Spectrum, with two seconds to play and Nova leading 72-71, current SU assistant Mike Hopkins (1990-93) heaved a three-quarter-length-of-the- court inbounds pass to the foul circle.
A leaping Conrad McRae (1990-93) grabbed the pass, turned and sank the jump shot at the buzzer to edge the ‘Cats 73-72.
Feb. 12, 2005-In a game when the building was known as the Wachovia Center and in front of a near sellout crowd of 19,966, the eighth-ranked Orange spanked the number-20 ‘Cats 90-75 as senior first team All American Hakeem Warrick (2002-05) had a triumphant final collegiate return to his Philly hometown with a 32-point, 12-rebound dominating performance, and current Orange assistant Gerry McNamara (2003-06) chipped in with 18-points and 7-assists.