Then, I was blindsided.
It's like taking a girl out and expecting her to be self-centered like the last ten women you've dated, then all of the sudden she makes you laugh.
That's what Wednesday night's 87-82 overtime win against Manhattan was like for me. I came into the last two minutes expecting the standard deal, and what I got was maybe the best two minutes of Syracuse basketball ever played at the dome.
The Orange was down by 10 points with 1:48 left on the clock. 10 points! That's when you put the kids' jackets on, nod your head in disgust, and prepare for the cold walk to the car. Not Wednesday though. That was something different. Wednesday's comeback was the reason I love my job so much.
I know what you're thinking, what about the 35-point swing that allowed Manhattan back in the game in the first place. It shouldn't have been close. Syracuse came out in the second half like the team has just developed a sudden case of Polio. How can I call this a great game when Syracuse lost a 20-point lead?
I don't care if Syracuse was up by a hundred, or playing the New York State School for the Blind, a great college basketball game is a great college basketball game. When a team makes a come back from ten points down within two minutes, well, that's something special.
Let me take me you through it:
2:21: ‘Cuse is down by 11. I'm looking around watching the people file out of the Dome and thinking to myself they're probably right. I mean this is over. Syracuse hasn't done a thing on offense in the last 10 minutes, and the zone is being eaten alive. I'm in disbelief at this point. Losses to Bucknell and Manhattan. Are we even going to make the tournament this year?
2:13: Gerry gets fouled taking a three and makes all three shots. I start doing some math in my head and figure out all Manhattan has to do is hit a couple of free throws and this thing is over. Gerry always gets garbage points at the end of Syracuse losses.
1:44: Gerry back at the line again. If the Jaspers keep putting him here they're nuts. He is the best in the country. Clang!!! … Yup, I'm that guy. The only drunk dude at a party, the man who asks an obese woman how much she weighs, or even the jerk who says Gerry is the best free throw shooter in the country before he bricks one. Anyway, he hits the second and Syracuse is still down by 9.
1:37: After a 1-for-2 effort from the line by Manhattan ‘Cuse is down by 10 when Josh Wright buries a three. I'm like Neo in The Matrix, I'm starting to believe. Syracuse has cut the lead to seven!
(What a clutch shot by Josh Wright. Kid is for real, but that's another column … coming soon. Keep your eyes open.)
:55: I'm really feeling it now. Manhattan forwards Mike Konovelchick and Darren Johnson both just pulled a Derrick Coleman and missed two free-throws at a critical time. And yes, I am afraid DC will read this column one day. I don't know how or when, but he'll find it somehow. And he'll come for me, he will (note to self: seek professional help).
:50: Gerry bangs a predictable three pointer. Who else? He has made big shot after big shot in his career. In fact he has made so many big shots he has been forgiven for all the bad ones he misses. But, if you need a three pointer when it matters, there isn't another guy in college basketball I want shooting it. Syracuse down by four.
:24: After two more missed free throws by Mike KonoveliCHOKE, Andy Rautins gets his three-pointer blocked, the ball somehow finds its way to the future mayor of Scranton, PA, and he doesn't disappoint. Gerry bangs another three. As much as I hate some of the shots he takes sometimes, I love that guy!
(By the way, do you know how hard it is for me not to get up and cheer right now? I'm on press row right in front of the student section. The students are going nuts! I want to go nuts too. Can't though, press can't cheer. I feel like I'm doing one of those tribal rites of passage where you have to be branded, walk across hot coals, then hang by your nipples for three days in total silence in order to be considered a man.)
:16: Direct quote from me when Devendorf launches up his three, "NO! What are you doing?! NO! NO! NO! You IDIO-... YESSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!" There goes the whole not cheering thing. I'm a fan. I always will be. I don't know why I care so much and love it the way I do, but when that ball went through the net, I felt pure joy. I have just witnessed the best two minutes of basketball I've ever seen at the Dome. Syracuse goes on for the win in OT.
The only thing reason I say the best two minutes at the Dome is because of the 1996 Georgia game in the semi's of the NCAA tournament. Still the greatest college basketball game I have ever seen. That game had everything, including the best two minutes ever. Similar situation really. It trumps because it was in the tourney.
Anyway, Syracuse is down by nine and playing god awful when Lazarus Sims decides he's going to nail two three's right in a row, leading to Jason Cipolla hitting a fall away buzzer-tying shot. He then slides into the Syracuse bench. It may be the lasting image from my Syracuse fan career. What a game.
(Always loved Jason Cipolla by the way. Not only did he make that shot, but now he is Mr. Jennifer Melfi because he is dating Lorraine Bracco. He landed her when Tony Soprano couldn't? That makes him a hero in my book. Think Tony is going to put a hit on him soon? It could be one of the most interesting subplots of the new season.)
Both those games had something very similar that made them great; we didn't expect to see it. I thought Syracuse was dead in both. I practically had the story about the loss written Wednesday when Gerry got fouled twice and started the run.
Things in life are always better when you don't expect them, and I certainly didn't expect that Wednesday night.
The real great thing about both these games is it gives us as fans hope. I've watched every game where Syracuse has been down by ten points with no time left, and had a flashback to that Georgia game. Thought to myself, maybe today could be the day it happens again. And on Wednesday, for once, I was right.