Orange Fizz


Syracuse Basketball’s Best Plays Ever

Only a few things, like Syracuse basketball, ignite a fire in Central New York. The sound of sneakers on polished wood, the deafening roar of the Carrier Dome crowd, and the flash of orange flying through the air— all send shivers down the spines of generations of Syracuse fans.

Today, we will delve into the heart of this passion, reliving the top 10 best games played by some of the greatest Syracuse basketball players. From buzzer-beaters that stole our breath to championship victories etched in history, we’ll relive the drama, the fun, and the sheer brilliance that define Syracuse basketball. Without further ado, let’s get right into it.

  1. NCAA Championship: Kentucky vs Syracuse

Date: April 1, 1996.

This championship game was one of the greatest basketball matches of all time: the underdog Syracuse, having just one future NBA player (John Wallace), faced Kentucky’s star-studded “Untouchables,” featuring ten eventual NBA talents. Wallace put on a show, dropping 29 points and ten rebounds, but Syracuse committed 24 turnovers and struggled to contain Kentucky’s diverse offense. 

Tony Delk lit it up from three for the Wildcats, scoring 24 points, while Ron Mercer and Antoine Walker chipped in critical contributions.

Despite losing Sims to injury and Wallace fouling out late, Syracuse battled back, earning two more points in the last 5 minutes. However, Kentucky’s depth and talent ultimately proved too much.

Watch the video: 1996 NCAA Championship Kentucky vs. Syracuse

1996 NCAA Championship Kentucky vs. Syracuse
  1. Syracuse vs. Georgetown

Date: January 28, 1985.

On January 28, 1985, Syracuse took down the mighty Georgetown Hoyas, the reigning national champions and the #1 Basketball team in the nation. The game was a back-and-forth affair, with Patrick Ewing dominating for Georgetown (21 points, 17 rebounds) and Rafael Addison keeping Syracuse close (26 points, 12 rebounds).

With seconds ticking down and Georgetown clinging to a one-point lead, a crucial turnover gifted the ball to Syracuse. 

Coach Jim Boeheim, with hopes, entrusted the final shot to Pearl Washington, who banged a 15-foot jumper in the last 8 seconds, sending the Carrier Dome into a frenzy. Syracuse held on for a dramatic 65-63 victory, marking a defining moment in their rivalry with Georgetown.

Watch the video: 1985 NCAA Syracuse vs. Georgetown

1985 NCAA Syracuse vs. Georgetown
  1. Syracuse vs. Duke

Date: December 7, 1989.

This early-season game was a back-and-forth thriller between college basketball powerhouses Syracuse and Duke.

Syracuse started strong, building a 15-point lead; Rob Brickey spearheaded the Duke comeback, scoring 21 points. The game became a tense seesaw battle, with neither team leading by more than two points in the final 10 minutes.

With the score tied and seconds ticking away, Syracuse’s David Johnson converted two crucial free throws to seal the win. Billy Owens also played a pivotal role, scoring 18 points and making key plays throughout the game.

Watch the video: (12-6-1989) #6 Duke Blue Devils vs #1 Syracuse Orange

(12-6-1989) #6 Duke Blue Devils vs #1 Syracuse Orange
  1. NCAA Tournament Regional Final vs. Kansas

Date: March 24, 1996.

This game was one of the most phenomenal matches for Syracuse, as nobody expected them to go on head to head with the Kansas Jayhawks, come out victorious, and even advance to the Final Four.

After a rocky start (3-5 in the Big East), the Syracuse Orangemen surprised everyone by defeating the #2-seeded Kansas Jayhawks 60-57. This David-vs-Goliath moment captured the hearts of Orange fans across the nation.

Kansas boasted future NBA stars like Paul Pierce and Raef LaFrentz, making Syracuse’s victory remarkable. Fueled by their underdog status, the Orangemen battled hard, proving their resilience and determination on the biggest stage.

Watch the 1996 West Regional Final video: (2) Kansas vs (4) Syracuse

1996 West Regional Final-(2) Kansas vs (4) Syracuse
  1. NCAA Tournament Final Four Syracuse vs. Texas

Date: April 5, 2003.

Syracuse defeated Texas 95-84 in the Final Four thanks to a strong performance from young guns Carmelo Anthony and Gerry McNamara. 

Anthony, the freshman, exploded for a career-high 33 points and 14 rebounds, while McNamara added 19 points and stifled Texas’ star T.J. Ford.

Remarkably, all of Syracuse’s second-half points came from first- and second-year students, showcasing their poise and talent on the biggest stage. Despite deploying various defenders and double-teaming Anthony, Texas couldn’t contain his offensive prowess. Coach Rick Barnes acknowledged Anthony’s impact: “Every point they score, you can almost attribute to Carmelo.”

Watch the video of the 2003 NCAA Final Four Semi-Final Syracuse vs. Texas:

2003 NCAA Final Four Semi Final Syracuse vs Texas
  1. National Championship Game Syracuse vs. Kansas

Date: April 7, 2003.

This championship game was a nail-biter. Neither team led by more than 8 points, and the lead changed hands 18 times throughout the contest.

Syracuse’s freshman star, Carmelo Anthony, poured in 21 points, including a crucial three-pointer with 2:22 minutes remaining to give the Orangemen the lead. The match ended with Syracuse defeating Kansas 81–78, crowning them the champions.

Watch the video: Syracuse vs. Kansas: 2003 National Championship | FULL GAME

Syracuse vs. Kansas: 2003 National Championship | FULL GAME
  1. Syracuse vs. Cincinnati

Date: March 8, 2006.

In 2006, Syracuse stumbled into the Big East Tournament. Facing elimination in the quarterfinals, they found themselves in a nail-biting duel with Cincinnati, both teams desperate for an NCAA Tournament bid.

The Orangemen started strong, building a 14-point lead. But Cincinnati clawed back and took a 73-71 lead with seconds remaining.

Just when hopes were getting lost, Gerry McNamara entered. He weaved through defenders, launched a desperation three, and it was a bang! The buzzer-beater won them the game, reviving their NCAA hopes and etching McNamara’s name in Syracuse legend.

Watch the video of Syracuse vs. Cincinnati (3/8/2006):

Syracuse vs. Cincinnati (3/8/2006)
  1. Syracuse vs. Marquette

Date: March 30, 2013.

In the 2013 NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight, Syracuse delivered a decisive 55-39 victory over Marquette. This dominant performance propelled them to the Final Four, where they would eventually fall to Michigan.

While Michael Carter-Williams scored 15 points, Syracuse showcased a balanced attack. Brandon Triche added 14 points, and C.J. Fair contributed 10 and 10 rebounds.

Marquette struggled offensively throughout the game, shooting 26% from the field and committing 18 turnovers. Vander Blue led the Golden Eagles with 14 points, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Syracuse’s stifling defense.

Watch video: March 30, 2013: [3] Marquette vs [4] Syracuse

March 30, 2013: [3] Marquette vs [4] Syracuse
  1. Syracuse vs. Virginia

Date: March 27, 2016.

In a classic NCAA Elite Eight matchup, Syracuse faced arch-rival Virginia, known for their stifling defense. Virginia dominated the first half, leading by 15 points with momentum.

Yet, Syracuse refused to succumb. They unleashed their full-court press with just over 9 minutes left, igniting a remarkable comeback.

Over the next 2 minutes, a 21-2 run flipped the script. Freshman Malachi Richardson emerged as the hero, scoring 14 points, including a clutch three-pointer that put them ahead with 5:49 remaining.

Virginia fought back, but Richardson’s persistence proved unstoppable. He converted a contested three despite a deflection, pushing the lead to 4 points. Syracuse held on from the free-throw line, securing a stunning 68-62 victory.

Watch the video of Syracuse vs. Virginia: Syracuse moves on to Final Four

Syracuse vs. Virginia: Syracuse moves on to Final Four
  1. Syracuse vs. Georgia

Date: March 22, 1996.

In the 1996 NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16, Syracuse faced off against Georgia in a nail-biting matchup. The game went into overtime, with the Orangemen trailing by two points.

With 2.1 seconds remaining, Coach Jim Boeheim surprised everyone by putting John Wallace, known for his scoring prowess, out of bounds instead of his point guard. The plan was for Wallace to pass to Lazarus Sims, but Georgia’s defense shut him down. Thinking quickly, Wallace spotted an opportunity with Cipolla and launched a cross-court pass, an audacious move that defied expectations.

Cipolla, catching the ball in stride, managed a perfect baseline jumper while falling away. The shot swished through the net, sending the game into double overtime.

With just seconds left, Wallace drained a clutch three-pointer, securing an 83-81 victory for Syracuse.

Watch video: Syracuse Orangemen vs Georgia Bulldogs 1996

Syracuse Orangemen vs Georgia Bulldogs 1996

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

  1. Has Syracuse ever beat Duke in basketball?

Yes. One of Syracuse’s most remarkable wins over Duke was in 1989 when they won by two points (78-76).

  1. Who has the most points in Syracuse basketball history?

Lawrence Moten with 2334 points.

  1. How many NBA players went to Syracuse University?

Over 58 different Syracuse Orangemen have successfully played in the NBA.

  1. Can I bet on basketball in New York?

Yes. New York online gambling has been legalized since 2022. If you’re above 18, you can engage in online gambling of any kind, including basketball.


Syracuse basketball has carved a tapestry of unforgettable moments over its storied history, from the dramatic buzzer-beaters to the improbable comebacks.

Whether it’s Carmelo’s electrifying dominance, McNamara’s miracle shot, or Wallace’s audacious pass, these plays serve as beacons, reminding us of the magic that unfolds on the hardwood.

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The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.


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