#2: Syracuse vs. Cincinnati March 8th, 2006
Gerry McNamara is most well known in the basketball world for being a key piece in SU’s 2003 NCAA championship run. The team was stacked, Gmac’s play was a great compliment to that of future Hall of Famer, Carmelo Anthony and now retired NBA starter, Hakim Warrick. McNamara never made it to the association like his teammates but his legacy at Syracuse is still as great as theirs thanks to this game.
Entering his final year on the hill, McNamara’s resume was looking pretty good. A national championship in his freshman season and a Big East Tournament championship in his Junior year were nice, but McNamara wasn’t done. The roster had changed, but Gmac’s desire to win hadn’t. In the 2005-06 regular season, Syracuse dropped 9 of their final 13 contests. Not exactly the kind of momentum any team wants to take into a conference tournament.
In that first round Boehiem’s squad faced off against Cincinnati. McNamara was often overlooked and his stats never jumped off the page, but his performance during crunch times remains untouched as some of the best in history, this time was no different.
Down two with six seconds to spare, McNamara put the game in his hands. Off the in-bound, the 6’2’’ guard maneuvered his way through two defenders to huck up a three-point runner with the game on the line. He drilled it. Syracuse took over 74-73 with less than half a second on the clock, then won by that score. That was the momentum shifter the Orange needed. After that game there was no beating them. Every game was a grind that ended in a McNamara-led Orange victory. In the next round against UCONN, Gmac served more of the same, a buzzer-beater force overtime in which SU took care of the Huskies, 86-84. In the semi-finals Georgetown put up quite the fight but 17 points from the senior guard put the orange ahead 58-57. Then a few days later in the finals opposing Pitt, the fearless leader of the Orange was presented tournament MVP honors after dishing out 6 assists along with 14 points in a 65-61 Orange victory.
If not for the heroics of McNamara, the Orange don’t make it out of the first round and the legacy he left behind would have been substantially weaker. Instead, Orange fans remember McNamara as a player that never gave up and shined the brightest when the spotlight was on him.