Our Fizz Four countdown of Syracuse’s best buzzer-beaters continues with an unlikely hero. His last-second winner is not surprising because he wasn’t talented or because he was not known as a clutch player, but because the play was not even drawn up for him.
Ryan Blackwell Sends the Storm Home, 1998
Madison Square Garden, Syracuse’s home away from Dome. The Orange and the Red Storm were trading blows in overtime, fighting for the right to play UCONN in the Big East Tournament Championship Game. SU’s two point lead disappeared when Ron Artest buried a 20-footer with 17 seconds left in overtime. Senior forward Todd Burgan walked the ball up for the Orange.
Boeheim didn’t call a timeout. He had no reason to with the Big East’s third leading scorer in control. Burgan was Mr. Reliable that year, averaging 18 points, seven rebounds and three assists per game.
But just as Boeheim was comfortable with Burgan dribbling up top, St. Johns was apprehensive. They doubled him at the top of the key as Burgan cut to his left, but he cut too hard and lost his dribble as he hit the deck. The ball trickled to Ryan Blackwell in the corner with just over two seconds remaining.
It only took Blackwell one dribble to his right to shake Artest, who assumed the sophomore would panic and force a shot up as soon as possible. When Blackwell created space, it was just a matter of fractions of a second before he propelled the Orange to the Championship Game, and enshrined himself in program history.
It wasn’t an extremely difficult shot, but compare it to the previous two on this Fizz Four countdown. Tyler Ennis and John Gillon knew they were taking the shot because they took the ball up. Blackwell had to be prepared, and perform out of system. Not to mention, Blackwell’s shot clinched a spot in the Conference Tournament Championship Game, whereas Ennis and Gillon came up clutch during regular season contests.
Blackwell might be known by today’s generation of Syracuse fans as the Boeheim’s Army Head Coach. But this buzzer-beater is a snapshot for them of Blackwell’s greatness, and a chapter in the program’s history book.