Jan. 13, 2009
Georgetown v. Syracuse – The Rivalry Renewed!!
Washington is currently experiencing a revival of Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story at the National Theatre. On Wednesday night, the BIG EAST’s version of the Jets v. the Sharks renews its 30-years war at the Verizon Center as our Hoyas take on the Syracuse Orange.
As a member of Generation Laughna, I can recall all 30 years of the rivalry, so I offer my own unvarnished perspective on the long-running production. This is purely subjective on my part, and I know that others, likely of more recent vintage, will disagree with me and have their own perspectives on the rivalry. That is as it should be, as “WE ARE GEORGETOWN” and were taught to think analytically on the Hilltop. (Unlike those from a certain unnamed school in upstate New York!!)
The rivalry began in earnest with the 1979 ECAC tournament game (pre-BIG EAST days) at Cole Field House when, led by John Duren and Craig Shelton and frosh phenom Eric Floyd, Georgetown defeated the Orange to go to the NCAA tournament. The seminal game in the rivalry likely was the 1980 "Manley Field House is Officially Closed" game, when Coach John Thompson, Jr.'s Hoyas, still led by Shelton, Duren and Floyd, made a ferocious comeback from a big deficit to defeat the Orange. Thereafter, the rivalry grew, as did the BIG EAST, and for much of the 1980s the Hoyas and the Orange were the two preeminent teams in the BIG EAST, although schools like St. John's, Boston College and Villanova certainly had their days and seasons. With this as prologue, I present my five top GU v. Cuse games.
My Fave 5 GU v. Cuse Games:
1. 3/10/84 GU 82 Cuse 71 (OT) (BIG EAST Final): The all-time Numero Uno!! Perhaps the most brutal, dramatic and satisfying game that I can ever recall. Patrick Ewing scored 27 points and garnered 16 rebounds a night after shooting 11 for 12 against St. Johns. Michael Graham gave a taste of things to come in the NCAA tournament by his performance in this game. I believe that he tangled, among others, with Andre Hawkins, one of the all-time Cuse thugs. Pearl Washington put on a show that only the Pearl could perform - - making Gene Smith (and any other Hoya who tried to defend him) look bad, very bad). We were a bit lucky to get this one into overtime, but once we did, as with the 2007 Regional Final Game against UNC, it was all Georgetown. Cuse Coach Jim Boeheim was in “full whine” after the game, complaining, as he kicked over a chair, that “The Best Team Did Not Win Tonight.” Wrong-O Jimmie Boy!
2. 3/08/87 GU 69 Cuse 59 (BIG EAST Final): This game was the capstone of a three-game season sweep by Reggie and the Miracles of the Orangemen, led by Ronnie Seikaly, Sherman Douglass and freshman Derrick Coleman. Ironically, Syracuse made it to the NCAA finals where they lost on a last-second corner jumper by Keith Smart of Indiana. (I still hate Slick Rick Pitino and Billy Donovan from Providence for beating us in the Elite Eight.) Perry McDonald, 6’04, went head-to-head with Seikaly at center and Reggie Williams was, as always, exquisite. (I will also confess that at Mass that morning at little Saint Francis of Assisi Church by the Garden, I actively prayed for the Hoyas to win!)
3. 3/12/89 GU 88 Cuse 79 (BIG EAST Final): Charles "Smitty" Smith led HIS team to the BIG EAST Championship as he, once again, completely outplayed the more heavily-touted Sherman Douglass (another DC kid from Spingarn). Smitty was helped by, among others, frosh Alonzo Mourning and, off the bench, sophomore Dikembe Mutombo, but this was, without question, Smitty's team. As I reminisced with my freshman floormate and HHC blog namesake Mike Laughna at the post-game, tournament victory party that late Sunday afternoon, little did I know, after the successes of the '80s, that it would be 18 years before we would once again be crowned BIG EAST Tournament Champions in 2007.
4. 2/13/80 GU 52 Cuse 50: "Manley Field House is officially closed!" I did not attend this game, but I remember listening to it at the Law Center where I was taking some grad courses. The game was all Syracuse until the final stretch, when Georgetown put on an incredible rally to tie and then win the game on two free throws by Sleepy Floyd with five seconds left. And not only did Georgetown close Manley with this one, but also it ended the Cuse’s 57-game home winning streak. (In my view, this Hoya team should have been Coach Thompson's first NCAA Championship team but, after spurting to a 10-point half-time lead against Iowa in the East Regional Finals, we pulled the air out of the ball in the second half and lost 81-80 on the last play of the game.)
5. 3/05/79 GU 66 Cuse 58 (ECAC South Finals at Cole Field House): Junior Stars John "Ba-Ba" Duren and Craig "Big Sky" Shelton joined forces with frosh phenom Eric "Sleepy" Floyd to knock the "Louie (Orr) and (Roosevelt) Bowie Show" out of the running for the NCAAs. We made the Cuse guards, Marty Head and Bernie Cohen, look very bad in a most satisfying victory.
(As I look over my list, I realize that the latest game on my list was almost 20 years ago! Perhaps it is true that memories take on certain poignancy over time!! I know that there have been numerous memorable match-ups since 1989 when Smitty did Douglass, but these above five games still stick out for me!)
I have made it to the Carrier Dome once for a Georgetown v. Cuse game. (Why would anyone want to go back in the winter!! And speaking of that, why would anyone put an air conditioning company in a city that only thaws for about 5 months a year!!) That was two years ago, the Final Four season, when the Orange, even without their long-retired “Dome Ranger” but aided by their annoying Orange mascot and the even-more annoying Eric “Tattoo Boy” Devendorf, laid a whuppin’ on our Hoyas by the score of 72-58. Ironically, that loss, occurring just prior to the end of the regular season, may have been the spur to the eight game winning streak we put on taking us through the championship of the BIG EAST and all the way to the Final Four. At the time, I was, of course, disappointed by the defeat, but a friendly Syracuse law grad and fan, who sat next to me during the game, uttered the following unforgettable quote (with apologies to Winston Churchill):
Don't worry! You'll go to bed and tomorrow, you will still have a Georgetown degree. These fans will go to bed, and tomorrow, they are still in Syracuse!!
With that, I left the Dome chuckling!
So, wear your gray, be loud and be at the Verizon Center in force on Wednesday, January 14 at 7:30 p.m. for the latest chapter in the rivalry that made the BIG EAST!! In fact, come out early to the pre-game Hoya Hoop Club reception in the back room of Bar Louie beginning at 5:30 p.m. There will be complimentary appetizers, discounted drinks, and door prizes. BE THERE!!
Finally, on behalf of all the HHC blog writers, I want to give a big attaboy to our leader John Hawkes (Generation Burton) for his yeoman service in coordinating and posting the blog over the past month or so while our regular staffer, Paul Muite, visited his family in Africa. The blogs have been posted without any apparent hitch and John, as always, has kept us well-informed on our duties!! Well done! I also want to commend all of this year’s new bloggers who have stepped in and made this blog even more enjoyable to follow!! But then again,
WE ARE GEORGETOWN!!
Beat the Cuse! Beat the Cuse!!
Michael Karam, F '72, L '76, L '82
Proud Member of Generation Laughna