Item: Amidst a two-game losing streak and 4-3 record which is the worst opening seven game stretch for a Syracuse basketball team since the 1996-97 squad also started 4-3, next up is only the fourth all-time hoops meeting with Iowa (5-2) Tuesday evening in the Dome (7:00 p.m. ET / ESPN2) in the annual made-for-TV (partner ESPN ), ACC-Big Ten Challenge game. In fact, the ’96-’97 team went 5-4 in its first nine games on route to an eventual 19-13 season and disastrous first-round NIT home loss to Florida State. The possibility to match that slow start for this year’s young team is also something to keep in mind with first the challenge of securing a home win over the Hawkeyes to boost the Orange’s overall resume, followed by an early road conference game at Georgia Tech Saturday, where a win is needed to avoid an 0-2 ACC start.
When Iowa takes to the Dome court Tuesday night it will leave only four of the 14 Big Ten teams (Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska and Northwestern) who have never played inside the building during its 40 seasons (SU has never even played Nebraska in basketball).
It will also mark the first time either Syracuse or Iowa has hosted a game in the brief three game series that spans seven decades. Here’s a capsule look at the three previous meetings:
1957 – Buffalo
Much like today, in the 1950s regional neutral court college basketball tournaments were the rage right up until New Year’s Day to draw interest in a provincial sport, with SU regularly playing in Eastern cities New York, Philly, Boston, and the like. Early in the ’57-’58 season which followed the school’s first NCAA Tournament appearance, the Orangemen met Iowa in the Queen City Tournament in Buffalo’s old Memorial Auditorium (“The Aud”) two days after knocking off host Canisius.
Junior 6-7 big man Jon Cincebox was the star of the team averaging 19.1 ppg and 16.4 rpg, but against Iowa it was senior guard Larry Loudis and his hot shooting (19-points) that led coach Marc Guley’s team to the 58-52 win over the 20th ranked Hawkeyes.
1980 – Philadelphia
In Jim Boeheim’s fourth season, he really began to elevate the Syracuse brand name from that of being a regionally-known upstate New York power, to nationally-known, ascending to No. 2 in the rankings for four weeks in February. Of course, Roosevelt Bouie and Louis Orr had a lot to do with that success, culminating their four-year run of the “Louie and Bouie Show” with a No. 1 seed in the NCAA East Regional (over the loud procrastinations of Georgetown’s John Thompson whose No. 3 seed Hoyas beat SU in the first Big East Tournament).
In the regional semifinals at the old Spectrum in South Philly pitting Hall of Famers Boeheim and then-Iowa coach Lute Olson, the game turned with just under 8:00 to play. Boeheim was whistled for a technical foul protesting a call that turned into a five-point sequence, and nine- point overall Iowa run to spur an 88-77 upset win, despite Orr’s 25 points and 16-rebounds. Bouie, playing with tendinitis in one leg, had 18-points but only three boards.
2014 – New York
Coming off a season in which it won a school-record 25 straight games, but was unkindly ousted by Dayton in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, the preseason ranked No. 23 ‘Cuse opened the following campaign in the 2K Classic hosting two on-campus routs, then falling to unranked California in the semifinals at Madison Square Garden, its first November loss in seven years.
In a meeting of current coaches Boeheim and Iowa’s now-10-year boss Fran McCaffery in the consolation game (Iowa lost to Texas), SU one-year wonder Chris McCullough was the game’s star. His steal of an inbounds pass with 8.4 seconds left and subsequent free throw helped seal matters in a 66-63 Orange victory, capping a nice homecoming for the Bronx native with a game-high 20-points and nine rebounds.