So yes, I spent the afternoon watching two old Syracuse games on ESPN Classic. I saw their noon and 2pm offerings. It wasn’t how I intended to spend my afternoon, but once I found out about the airings I knew my errands would have to wait. The noon game was a win over Notre Dame at the Dome in ‘03; the 2pm game was a triumph over Georgetown, played in Landover, MD in 1995. The 2003 game was fun (Gerry hit the game-winner with about 15 seconds remaining) but notable mostly for everyone drooling over Carmelo & Co. (Favorite line from the broadcast: “Anthony might be player of the year in the Big East, though Mike Sweetney and Craig Smith may have something to say about it.”) But the 1995 game was insanely entertaining. The starting lineup was:
Michael Lloyd (PG)
Lawrence Moten (SG)
Luke Jackson (SF)
John Wallace (PF)
J B Reafsnyder (C)
with appearances off the bench by Otis Hill, Lazarus Sims, and Todd Burgan. (Side note: every single one of those eight players eventually played professional ball somewhere in the world.) The hated foes from DC included a freshman Allen Iverson, Jerome Williams, Othella Harrington, Don Reid(!), Boubacar Aw(!!!), someone I don’t remember at all named John Jacques, and even a young Jahidi White. Dick Vitale was on the announcing team, back when ESPN still forced him to do non-ACC games.
The game was a classic back-and-forth SU-GTown scrum. SU won largely due to Georgetown making only like a third of their free throws. Watching it made me seriously nostalgic for any number of things (in no particular order):
- Lawrence Moten. It’s easy to forget how good he really was. Still the all-time leading scorer in Big East games. (Though I wonder if Harangody might have a chance to break that this season.. anyone know?) It was a treat to watch him play again.
- J B Reafsnyder had a double-double in this game. It’s easy to pigeonhole him as a slow, tall, doofus-type player, especially because of his unusual name. But the guy had game. He was better in this game than Craig Forth on his best day, and definitely more of a player than Dave Siock, Billy Celuck, or Ethan Cole (to name a few with whom he is generally lumped).
- The solid orange uniforms with white lettering, and the old S logo. Before Nike got their grimy little hands on things. Clean lines, no silver anywhere to be seen. Proper.
- Four guys on the floor who could (and did) hit mid-range jump shots.
- Less contact during the game. Remember, the Big East has always been known for overly physical play. And this game had its share, but nowhere near what we’ve gotten used to in the 15 years hence. The action flowed a lot better, and guys were still battling without kicking the crap out of each other. I blame Shaq.
- SU actually played a fair amount of man defense. They switched it up over the course of the game, but they were far from exclusively a zone team at the time. (I now have the feeling that it was the title-game run in ‘96 that really cemented the zone as their signature weapon.) What’s more, Georgetown also switched between zone and man quite a bit.
- Big John Thompson. I’ll admit it. Seeing him on the sidelines felt… right. He’s still a henchman of Satan, of course, but it just hasn’t been the same without him.
The game sort of came down to the wire; SU trailed for a while, but built up and maintained a small lead (3-6 points) for the last couple of minutes. The final margin was one point, only because Iverson hit a three as time expired with SU up four. One other thing I noticed was that you could definitely hear the SU fans in the crowd on the road. I’ve attended all but one of the SU games in DC since I moved here in the fall of 1999, and have always marveled at the size of the Orange contingent in the house. But it’s good to know that we fans have been representing since before they opened the MCI Center.
I don’t know that there will be many more SU hoops contests from the 90s on ESPN Classic anytime soon, but if there are, I strongly recommend them to any true fan. Knowing the outcome takes the adrenaline edge off, but doesn’t detract one bit from the enjoyment of the contest. (Though that might not be so much the case if it is a game that SU lost.)
I had to turn off the TV immediately after this game because they followed it with the six-overtime game from last spring, and I knew if I got sucked into that one it’d kill the remainder of my day. Plus, I saw it less than a year ago. Plus, I’m about to get it on DVD.