|1990-1991 Syracuse Orangemen|
|Overall||26-6||NCAA First Round||Schedule Results|
|Big East||12-4||Big East Champion (Regular Season)||Previous||Next|
Coach: Jim Boeheim
The 1990-1991 season was going to be the first opportunity for Billy Owens to be the main focus at Syracuse after two years of willingly deferring to veterans Derrick Coleman and Stephen Thompson. And Owens did not disappoint anyone. Though the team had a inexperienced backcourt of freshman Adrian Autry and sophomore Michael Edwards, the team was able to rise to #3 in the polls mid December, starting out 13-0.
Helping Owens was the emergence of Dave Johnson as a big time offensive threat; this after two years of being a defensive specialist. Owens and Johnson combined for 43.2 points per game, as Owens became the first player under Jim Boeheim to average more than 20 points per game in a season. Senior LeRon Elllis was the only other double digit scorer.
Syracuse won the Maui Invitational beating # 8 Indiana in the finals 77-74. Autry sank to free throws down the stretch to clinch the victory, as Owens led the way with 28 points and 13 rebounds, hitting twelve of the fifteen shots he attempted.
Syracuse would start their Big East season with a tough stretch playing six ranked teams in the first nine games. Ironically they would go 5-1 against the ranked teams and 1-2 against the unranked teams in that stretch. They played # 9 St. John's in the Dome in early January. The game ended up tied in regulation at 80-80. The Orangemen would run away with the overtime period outscoring the Redmen 12 to 6, two of the baskets on spectacular alley oop dunks on passes from Owens to Johnson. Owens and Johnson would combine for 50 points in that game.
Syracuse would beat #19 Georgetown in D.C. 58-56. Neither team shot very well and Owens had an off night. However, Syracuse got a lift from Mike Hopkins who came off the bench and went three-for-three from three point range, and Johnson would lead all scorers with 18 points.
The Orangemen would face #19 UConn to wrap up their string of games against ranked teams. The game was close, and the Huskies had a couple of chances to tie the game in the last few seconds, but Syracuse held on for the win. Autry had fouled out with only 24 minutes of game time, forcing Boeheim to go to the bench more than he wanted. This time freshman Scott McCorkle was the hero, as he played 30 minutes, scored 13 points while dishing out 5 assists Johnson would lead all scorers with 27 points, and while Owens struggled to shoot, he pulled down 16 rebounds.
Two days before the Notre Dame game, seven of the Syracuse players found out they may be ineligible to play in the game due to minor infractions, including Owens, Johnson, Ellis, Edwards, Hopkins, Dave Siock and Chaundu Carey. Coach Boeheim was prepared to play the game with "three football players, three walk-ons, the two freshman and McRae." However, the NCAA was satisfied with Syracuse's resolution to the problem, and all ended up being eligible to play. Syracuse led most of the game when Notre Dame's Elmer Bennett sank a shot to give the Irish a 69-68 lead with 31 seconds to go. On Syracuse's next possession, Autry would drive the lane for a short shot. However, his shot missed. Fortunately Owens grabbed the rebounded and put up a point blank shot to give the Orangemen a 70-68 lead. Notre Dame had a chance to win at the buzzer but failed. Owens would lead the way in scoring with 31 point along with 10 rebounds.
On March 3rd a record crowd would come to the Carrier Dome to once again see a memorable Syracuse-Georgetown basketball game. The Hoyas would lead by as much as 9 points in the game, and had a six point lead 52-46 with 6:15 left. The Hoyas' Joey Brown drove to the hoop for what looked like an uncontested layup when Hopkins came out of nowhere and blocked the shot. Syracuse grabbed control of the ball, and then on the other end of the court Hopkins drained a three point shot to make it 52-49. Syracuse would go on an 8 point run and when Owens hit a three point shot, the Orangemen took a 54-52 lead they would never relinquish.
The Orangemen finished the regular season at 26-4, ranked #6 in the country. After the tremendous season by Owens and Johnson, expectations were understandably high for a great post season run. The team was 8-0 in games decided by 4 points or less and 8-2 against top 25 teams. And then the unexpected happened.
The Orangemen, who had always been strong contenders in the Big East tournament, lost in the first round of the tournament to Villanova 70-68. They still managed a #2 seed in the NCAA tournament, where disaster struck once again. They did the seemingly impossible, losing to #15 seed Richmond in the first round 73-69, for one of the biggest first round upsets in NCAA history.
The team which had reached such lofty heights during the regular season, winning so many games with relative ease, had come to a screeching halt in two games.
©RLYoung 2005, 2006, 2015
 Syracuse Post Standard, Feb 9, 1991