|1983-1984 Syracuse Orangemen|
|Overall||23-9||NCAA Sweet Sixteen||Schedule Results|
Coach: Jim Boeheim
It was the dawn of a new era in Syracuse basketball, as the Pearl brought his show to town. Syracuse had graduated the senior trio of Rautins, Santifer, and Bruin, but the addition of Washington brought lots of hope. The Pearl electrified crowds with his shake-and-bake playground moves, and his ability to breakdown any defense. Rafael Addison, given a shot to start, emerged as the teams leading scorer, displaying a sweet perimeter shot and a good sense for grabbing rebounds.
Coach Jim Boeheim would play only seven players regularly, with Wendell Alexis and Greg Monroe seeing plenty of playing time from the bench. Seniors Sean Kerins and Gene Waldron both played solid if unspectacular basketball, and Andre Hawkins continued to bring his beefy hustling presence to Syracuse's center position.
The team had its weaknesses: weak on the boards and no interior defensive presence. But it was a team that was exciting to watch, and was referred to as the 'Kardiac Kids' in the Post Standard. Every night was a possible highlight. The team played five overtime games, including a triple overtime against UConn in February. They had six other games decided by two or less points. Syracuse would start the Big East season 8-0, becoming the first Big East team to accomplish that feat.
Gene Waldron put on the first big show of the season in the Carrier Classic, where he found a night he was extremely comfortable shooting the ball. Though he normally did not shoot much in his career, that night Waldron lit up Iona for 40 points in an easy Syracuse victory.
In January against Boston College, the Pearl showed the hometown fans his magic. Boston College's Martin Clark was at the free throw line with a couple seconds left on the clock, and the game tied 73-73. Clark missed his free throw, and Washington grabbed the rebound and from half court heaved a shot. The Pearl kept running to the locker room as his shot swished through the hoop, giving Syracuse a 75-73 win and electrifying the crowd of 30,000+ fans.
The free throw line became a nightly adventure with all the close games. Against Providence on January 14th, Addison, Monroe, Washington and Hawkins would all make both ends of one-and-one free throws (eight straight) to seal the win. Against St. Johns on January 28th, Syracuse would miss the front end of seven straight one-and-ones, three in the last 1:42 of regulation to allow St. John's to tie the game and send it into overtime, and the first four one-and-one's in overtime. Fortunately Syracuse played great defense in overtime, and Addison would make both his free throws in the closing minute to snap the streak and seal the game.
The triple overtime game against Connecticut was a classic game, tying the longest game Syracuse had played (up to that point). The Huskies' Roy Broxton hit a two footer with five seconds remaining to tie the game 67-67 and send it into overtime. Syracuse trailed 75-70 in the first overtime before tying it up, and then taking the lead. The Orangemen led by two as Larry Blucher of Connecticut was fouled with no time remaining. Blucher would make both free throws and send the game into the second overtime. At the end of the second overtime period, the Orangemen again led by two points as the Huskies' Giscombe was fouled. Like Blucher, Giscombe would make both free throws to send the game into the third overtime. In the third overtime period the Orangemen pulled out to a large early lead, but then missed the front end of three one-and-one's to allow the Huskies to pull within one. However, the Orangemen would hold on to win 87-85.
The Orangemen finished the regular season at 19-7 (an impressive 12-4 in the Big East). The true fun of the season was about to begin as the Pearl brought his show to his hometown in the Big East Tournament in Madison Square Garden. The Orangemen easily beat UConn in the first round on a 31 point night by Addison, and nipped Villanova in the second on a heroic 30 point night by the Pearl, to bring on a classic Syracuse - Georgetown game in the finals.
The game was extremely physical. The Pearl was playing at the top of his game, and putting moves on the Georgetown guards that left their heads shaking (including a shake-and-bake move on guard Eric Smith that defies description to this day). Georgetown's Patrick Ewing dominated the inside, with Hawkins battling him throughout the game. Late in the game, Syracuse had a small lead, Georgetown's Michael Graham, an enforcer whose primary job seemed to be to physically annoy opponents, threw a punch at Hawkins (replays verified this). Initially, the referees ejected Graham. But then after a discussion with Hoya Coach John Thompson, the referees reversed their call and kept Graham in the game. The difference being that instead of four free throws and possession of the ball, Syracuse got only two free throws. The momentum in the game swung. Raf Addison had already fouled out with only 17 minutes of playing time and 4 points. Hawkins would foul at with 2:48 to go, forcing Syracuse to have three freshman on the court. The Pearl would get called for a controversial 5 second call, resulting in a turnover. Syracuse had a chance to win at the end, but Kerins' baseline jumper missed. Georgetown was able to force the game into overtime. In the extra period, Georgetown's superior ability would take them to a 7-0 start, and then the Big East Championship (and eventually to the National Championship). In the post game interview, an irate Jim Boeheim threw his chair, and stormed out of the press conference.
In the NCAA tournament the Orangemen would easily beat Virginia Commonwealth in the first round. However, they had a horrendous shooting night against Virginia in the Sweet Sixteen, missing most the jump shots they had made all year. Syracuse shot 27% for the first half and trailed the Cavaliers 26-16 at the half. They did not perform much better in the second half, losing 63-55.
The season ended with the loss, but brought a lifetime of memories to many Syracuse fans.
© RLYoung 2005, 2009