As we continue to commemorate the life and career of former Georgetown head coach John Thompson, it’s only right that we do so by shedding the brightest of lights upon them. The man’s on-court achievements and his impact beyond the game of basketball certainly speak for themselves. For that very reason, Syracuse fans can truly be grateful for the privilege of seeing him in action far more often than most… even if perhaps, in those very moments in-time, it might have been harder to see it that way. After all, the Orange and the Hoyas have shared plenty of mutual animosity for quite some time, which doesn’t happen without competing success, intense battles and thrilling moments. With no shortage of the latter during Thompson’s tenure at Georgetown, let’s take a look back at some of the memorable moments between the two schools during that 27-year span.
Big East Tournament Final, 1984
The game ended in an overtime win for the Hoyas, but it was more than just a battle on the scoreboard that makes this moment memorable. With the game coming down to the wire in regulation, Georgetown’s Michael Graham threw an apparent punch at Syracuse’s Andre Hawkins. However, Graham would wind up staying in the game, with the refs ruling the exchange an intentional foul rather than something more. Nevertheless, Graham remained on the court, ultimately helping lift the Hoyas to an 82-71 victory over the Orange – and a Big East Tournament title to-boot. After the game, Jim Boeheim didn’t mince his words when said, “today, the best team didn’t win.”
Thompson’s Triple Technical, 1990
This next moment was did not end quite as gracefully as the one prior, for Thompson and the Hoyas. Regardless, long-time fans of either school likely remember the final regular season game of the 1989-1990 season, at The Dome. With just over two minutes to go in the first half, Georgetown led Syracuse by three points when the Hoyas’ Dwayne Bryant was called for a reach-in foul on Derrick Coleman. Let’s just say, as Coleman went to the line for a one-and-one, it became clear quite quickly that Thompson wasn’t too thrilled with the foul call. What ensued were back-to-back… to-back technical called on Thompson, which resulted in an automatic ejection. Like countless other matchups between SU and Georgetown, the rest of the game was hotly-contested and unsurprisingly, came down to the wire. After some clutch free-throw shooting from Billy Owens, the game went to overtime where the Orange edged out an 89-87 win – many thanks to a Stephen Thompson layup with 25 seconds left. The victory gave Syracuse that season’s Big East regular-season title.
Showdown at the Capital Centre, 1987
In yet another back-and-forth overtime battle between these two sides, the No. 6-ranked Orange was on the road, facing a No. 11 Hoyas team that received an incredible performance from Perry McDonald. Tasked by Thompson with guarding the 6-foot-11 Rony Seikaly, McDonald – at just 6-foot-4 – responded with a tremendous effort on defense, but that wasn’t all. Georgetown’s junior also went for 23 points and hit a buzzer-beating jump shot to beat the Orange, 83-81. Ironically enough, SU would go on to get the last laugh that season, ultimately reaching the NCAA Tournament Championship Game. However, despite being just one Keith Smart jumper away from a national championship crown, the Orange did lose to the Hoyas three times in the 1986-1987 season – all by a combined 13 points in total (10 of which coming from one particular loss in the Big East Tournament Final).
“Manley Field House is officially closed,” 1980
In February 1980, Syracuse – ranked No. 2 in the country – hosted Georgetown in its last basketball game ever at Manley Field House. Heading into the game riding a 57-game winning streak at home, the Orange went up comfortably on the unranked Hoyas in the first half. However, Georgetown came jolting back in the second half and behind Craig Shelton, erased a 14-point halftime deficit. With the game tied late, Sleepy Floyd hit a pair of free throws to put the Hoyas ahead with five seconds left. Georgetown would ultimately shock Syracuse, walking out with a 52-50 victory and prompting Thompson’s well-documented words… “Manley Field House is officially closed.”
From there, a timeless rivalry was born.