UConn doesn’t claim a major rival the same way other major programs like Kentucky or North Carolina do, but if the fans had to choose, it seems like Syracuse would be the consensus pick. Syracuse fans won’t admit to UConn being their major rival, but that’s because they like easy targets and hate fun things, so they claim the sham program of Georgetown as their main rival instead. Pay no attention to every Syracuse fan clearly having more enmity towards UConn than Georgetown and obviously reveling more in UConn’s recent failures than Georgetown’s; UConn is not their main rival, they say.
It’s an emotionally wrought rivalry, to be sure, and the 95th playing of said rivalry tips off on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. Syracuse likes to claim MSG as its second home, despite UConn winning seven Big East titles there to Syracuse’s five (three if you don’t count the wins they vacated because Jim Boeheim is a cheater). With that said, here’s a list of the greatest moments in the history of the UConn-Syracuse rivalry. You might notice that the greatest moments tend to come in UConn victories, and that’s because Syracuse sucks and I hate them.
[NOTE: The author of this piece attended Syracuse University.]
Earl Kelley goes 6-6 from the free throw line in the final half-minute of the game to clinch a close victory over the Orange. Before hitting the final shot, Kelley tells Syracuse players “it’s all over,” in what may be the first recognized moment of swag for either program.
UConn came back from a six-point deficit with two and a half minutes left, scoring seven straight points to pick up a comeback victory at the Carrier Dome. Cliff Robinson hit two free throws with only two seconds left. This was also Jim Calhoun’s first win over the villain Jim Boeheim.
The dream season! UConn beats Syracuse 78-75 in the championship game of the Big East Tournament to capture the first conference title since leaving the Yankee Conference. It’s not a particularly memorable game, but it was a happy one.
UConn wins four straight over Syracuse—that’s every matchup they played in those two seasons—one of which propelled them to the first No. 1 ranking in school history. None of them were particularly close games.
UConn makes another comeback in the Big East Championship, coming back from a nine-point deficit late in the second half to secure the automatic bid (and bragging rights).
In the Big East Tournament semifinal, UConn obliterates Syracuse. Just destroys them. Kicks their butt. UConn won a national championship that year. Syracuse lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
This wasn’t an especially memorable game, but I wanted to commemorate UConn’s largest ever win over the Orange, a 28-point victory on February 2, 2004. Syracuse did not defend their only national title.
Yes, the six-overtime game. UConn lost, but whatever, by the third overtime it became exceedingly clear that the Huskies had already done everything they needed to do in order to secure a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Meanwhile, UConn made the Final Four that year while Syracuse got dunked on so hard by Blake Griffin that he concussed himself on the backboard. Who really won that year? I would argue Syracuse did not.
Kemba Walker wasn’t losing any tournament games in 2011, and that included this Big East semifinal win over the Orange. This was one of Kemba’s finest moments, scoring 33 and leading all players with 12 rebounds in the overtime game. The Huskies scored the clinching bucket—a Jeremy Lamb floater—with only 25 seconds left in the game.
I’m saving this space for after the game.
(Do not @ me if UConn loses.)