I have been following Syracuse University basketball my entire life.
I remember sitting on the floor at my grandmother’s house. I was in fifth grade, and we were watching the 1975 Syracuse-North Carolina East Regional semifinal and Jimmy Lee hit a last-second jumper that lifted the Orange over the much favored Tar Heels, sending the team to SU’s first-ever Final Four.
I remember attending my first and last game at Manley Field House as a sophomore in high school in 1980, when John Thompson and the Georgetown Hoyas “officially closed” the place, ending Syracuse’s 57-game home-court winning streak. Thus a rivalry was born.
I remember spending my 17th birthday at the Dome and Leo Rautins and Syracuse defeating Villanova 83-80 in triple overtime to win the 1981 Big East Tournament Championship.
I remember sitting half-court, five rows from the bench and Pearl Washington launching the shot from mid-court that swished through the net as the buzzer sounded, giving the Orange an incredible victory over Boston College during the 1984 season, and for me, a trampling by the student section.
I remember Keith Smart making that shot in the 1987 championship game with five seconds remaining as Indiana defeated Syracuse, 74-73, denying head coach Jim Boeheim and the Orange their first National Championship.
I remember all of the Georgetown games with Thompson and Patrick Ewing, Lou Carnesecca’s ugly sweater, Sherman Douglas, Billy Owens, John Wallace, Carmelo Anthony, covering both the 1996 and 2003 Final Fours. I remember the six overtimes it took Syracuse to defeat UConn in the Big East Tournament–the list goes on and on. So many memories, both good and bad of Syracuse basketball.
But one that will certainly forever be on the top five of all-time Syracuse basketball games, is Saturday’s 91-89 in overtime against Duke at the Carrier Dome, which set an all-time NCAA on-campus attendance record with 35,446 fans and set the record for the best start in school history at 21-0.
The atmosphere was electrifying, and the game certainly lived up to all of its hype. It was a classic–an epic–you name it. It marked the beginning of an ACC rivalry between two storied basketball programs, which featured the top two coaches on the all-time NCAA Division I basketball wins list. This game will certainly be added to the list of other Carrier Dome highlights.
“It was just a great game,” head coach Boeheim said. “I don’t think I’ve been involved in a better game here that I can remember where both teams played at such a high level. You can have close games and tough, exciting games. But I don’t think I’ve seen a game where two really good defensive teams, and it’s 91-89. Both teams just went after it. I can’t say enough about the quality of this game. It was the highest quality possible.”
Assistant coach Mike Hopkins agreed.
“That may have been the greatest regular-season game I’ve ever been a part of,” said Hopkins. “Even that six-overtime game [against Connecticut in the Big East Tournament in 2009] — that was pretty epic, but this was huge.”
Huge it was. And worth every penny spent.
“If you paid $3,400 on the market for a courtside seat, it was money well worth spent,” Boeheim said. “You should be happy that you did. If you sold your tickets for this game, you should be ashamed because you made some money and missed something epic.”
That they did.