What is it about the Syracuse Orange men's basketball program that makes it so susceptible to the random, out-of-nowhere performance from an unknown opposing player? That's the question I, and I'm sure many other 'Cuse fans, were asking themselves late Monday night when the Orange lost to the No. 13-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels, 93-83, at the Dean Smith Center.
UNC was sparked by a hot shooting night and a surprise performance from sophomore guard Nate Britt, who netted a career-high 17 points. Britt's performance was yet another scenario in which an opposing player seemingly came out from the stands to suit up and take down the Orange, whom played well but ran out of gas in the final 10 minutes of the ACC contest in Chapel Hill.
After the contest, SU head coach Jim Boeheim, who has been around for awhile, made this comment when asked about Britt's surprise showing.
Jim Boeheim addressing the common player-from-nowhere-kills Syracuse theme: "Those things happen all the time. It’s not something we like."— Jared E. Smith (@JaredSmithCNY) January 27, 2015
Before his comment, the 70-year-old headman hinted to a few other scenarios during this season in which a role player played like a All-ACC First Teamer and helped made things interesting.
Syracuse fans know this scenario all too well, and though it probably does happen to other programs, it just seems the Orange(men) have a knack for giving up that big, unforeseen night.
How frequently does it happen? Well, I took the liberty of diving through the Syracuse men's hoops boxscores from 1998 to the present to find out. Before I ventured into this journey, I did setup some parameters:
- An out-of-now-where performance must come in a victory over Syracuse.
- It must feature a starter scoring 30-plus points; or doing something very notable in a victory.
- A role player must have had a career night, or have gone well above his season average.
- If an impressive performance comes in a loss to Syracuse, it earns an honorable mention.
From there, this is what I found.
This Season (2014-15)
Nate Britt, Soph., G, North Carolina Tar Heels
- Scored career-best 17 points, which included him making 4-for-5 from behind the 3-point line, in 26 minutes of action in UNC's 93-83 victory in Chapel Hill.
- Averages 6.0 points and 16 minutes per game.
- Scored a career-high 16 points, which included 4-for-8 from long range, in a 66-53 victory over the Syracuse.
- Scored career-high 26 points on 10 of 13 shooting, including 4-for-7 from behind the 3-point line, in a 86-83 overtime loss to Syracuse.
- Mitoglou started the game 9-for-9 from the floor.
2012-13 Season: The Year Of Where Did He Come From?
- Compiled a career-best 21 points and 10 rebounds in a 83-79 upset victory over No. 3-ranked Syracuse.
- Averaged 5.0 ppg during the season.
- Teammate Khalif Wyatt went off for a game-high 33 points. The duo combined to go 26-for-29 at the free-throw line. Lee was 11-for-14.
- Tallied a career-best 25 points, seven rebounds and six assists in a 75-71 overtime victory over No. 3-ranked Syracuse.
- Surprisingly, the game is more widely known for Ryan Arcidiacono's buzzer-beating 3-pointer, which tied the game with 2.2 second to go in regulation. Arcidiacono scored 10 points in the game.
- Scored a career-best 26 points off the bench in a 74-71 victory over No. 12 Syracuse (Feb. 25). The performance featured Gardner going a perfect 7-for-7 from the floor and making 12 of his 13 free-throw attempts.
- Scored eight points and played 21 minutes in Final Four match up with Syracuse.
- Averaged just 2.3 points and 10.1 minutes per game during the season.
- Scored 18 points and played 35 minutes in the Buckeyes' NCAA Regional Final victory over Syracuse.
- Smith did score 28 points against No. 3-ranked Indiana Hoosiers earlier in the season, but he averaged just 6.8 points and 25 minutes per game during the year.
Have a honorable mention performance to add to @NunesMagician #OutOfNowhereGuy list: Rutgers’ Gilvydas Biruta scored 21 in L to SU in 2012.— Jared E. Smith (@JaredSmithCNY) January 29, 2015
- The performance is still a career-high for Biruta, who came into the game averaging 9.3 ppg. He finished the first half 6-for-9 from the floor. Overall, he collected seven rebounds.
- Currently, Biruta is playing for the Rhode Island Rams as he left the Rutgers Scarlet Knights during the Mike Rice fallout–apparently he was one of the players that dealt with a lot of Rice's harsh words.
- Tallied seven points, six rebounds and 27 minutes of playing time in UConn's 76-71 victory against Syracuse in the Big East Tournament Quarterfinal game.
- During Big East play, Olander averaged just 9.6 minutes, 0.7 points and 1.0 rebounds per game.
- Netted all 22 of his points in the final 14:25 to propel Louisville to a 78-68 victory over top-ranked Syracuse.
- Kuric averaged just 3.5 ppg coming into the game. He would end the season at just 4.4 ppg.
Tony Crocker, Jr., G, Oklahoma Sooners
- Posted a career-high 28 points in a 84-71 victory over Syracuse in a NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 showdown.
- Most Syracuse fans remember this game for Blake Griffin scoring 30 points in a dominating performance, but Crocker averaged just 9.6 points per game during the season and helped the Sooners pull off the win.
- Netted 33 points to help the visiting Big Red earn a 16-point advantage over the nationally-ranked Orange, who rallied to win 88-78. Whittman finished the game with nine 3-pointers.
Dante Milligan, Sr., F, UMass Minutemen
- Scored a then career-high 17 points in a 107-100 win over host Syracuse.
- Milligan's performance was overshadowed by Ricky Harris' 25 points and Gary Forbes' 23 points, but he makes the list because later in the season, in the NIT Quarterfinals, his dunk with 28 seconds remaining in regulation helped UMass upset Syracuse again.
- It was the first time a program had beaten Syracuse at home twice in a season.
Dominique Jones, Fr., F, South Florida Bulls
- The rookie posted a 29-point performance, which included going 7-for-12 from the floor, in a 89-79 victory over Syracuse (Feb. 13).
- Jones would go on to a prolific scorer in the Big East, as he scored over 30 points eight times in his collegiate career including a 30-point showing against SU in his junior season.
Honorable Mention: Kyle McAlarney, Jr., G, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
- Used nine 3-pointers to score 30 points in a 94-87 victory over the Orange on Feb. 24. At the time, the nine makes were a program record for the Irish.
- McAlarney isn't much of a sleeper, as he went on to be an All-Big East First Teamer, but he killed SU during his career. During his senior season he netted 24 points, which included seven 3s, against SU.
Frank Eleger, Jr., C, DePaul Blue Demons
- Tallied 22 points and 10 rebounds in a 84-79 victory over Syracuse on Nov. 23. Elger went 11-for-16 from the floor.
- Eleger's performance spoiled Demetris Nichols' 31-point effort for the Orange.
Karron Clarke, So., F, DePaul Blue Demons
- Went off for 27 points, which featured him going 11-for-13 from the floor (5-for-5 from behind the 3-point line) in a 108-69 stomping of visiting Syracuse.
- Thanks to a career-high 41 points Douby nearly single-handedly helped Rutgers earn an upset victory at Syracuse. His nine 3-pointers weren't enough, though, as SU survived 86-84.
- Douby was the Big East Conference's scoring leader that season, averaging over 25 ppg. He'd move on to play in NBA for a few seasons and then China, where he once scored 75 points in a game.
Germain Mopa Njila, Sr., F, Vermont Catamounts
- Produced the game of his life in the famous 60-57 upset of Syracuse, as he scored a career-high 20 points on nine of 10 shooting. He also collected nine rebounds and a critical steal in the closing minutes.
- Njila didn't combined to score 20 points in three American East Tournament games. After the game, his head coach Tom Brennan said this about his senior's performance, "Let's get one thing straight," Vermont coach Tom Brennan cracked yesterday. "Of the nine shots he made, eight of them I didn't want him to take."
- Of course, most 'Cuse fans remember that game for Taylor Coppenrath and T.J. Sorrentine's 35-foot bomb.
Brendan Plavich, Jr., G, Charlotte 49ers
- Behind 10 made shotes behind the 3-point arc, Plavich scored 31 points in a 96-92 victory over the defending National Champions.
- Plavich was 7-for-9 from long range in the first half and went on to tie an opposing team record for 3s made against the Orange (he owns the Carrier Dome record).
- The performance spoiled a season-opening, 34-point night from sophomore Gerry McNamara.
Jerome Coleman, Soph., G, Rutgers Scarlet Knights
- Netted 31 points to help take down the eventual National Champions, 68-65, at the RAC (Jan. 29).
Honorable Mention: Chris Hill, Soph., G, Michigan State Spartans
- Almost helped the host Spartans takedown the eventual National Champions by knocking down a career-best 34 points, which featured 10 3-pointers. His performance wasn't enough, though, as SU went on to win 76-75 in East Lansing.
- In his first career start Grindstaff scored 18 points in a 66-62 victory over the No. 8-ranked Orangemen. Grindstaff went 3-for-6 from behind the 3-point line.
- This wasn't the first time Grindstaff came out of nowhere against SU, as during the 2000-01 season he came off the bench to tally 11 points and six rebounds in 20 minutes of play. Before that, Grindstaff had barely sniffed the floor.
- Scored 34 points in a 74-60 victory against visiting Syracuse.
- Murphy scored a lot of point in his career, but he got the best of the Orangemen that day.
- Scored a career-high 10 points on five of five shooting in a 69-67 victory over Syracuse.
- Most SU fans remember that game for Darius Lane netting 20 points, including a game-winning 3-pointer with 39 seconds to go.
- Harris would go on to score 10 points against Rutgers in Seton Hall's next game, but he'd never sniff double figures again in his collegiate career.
- Netted a career-high 16 points, collected seven rebounds in 23 minutes of playing time in a 73-59 victory over Syracuse (Dec. 9).
- Berry averaged just 4.7 points per game.
Keith Friel, So., G, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
- Knocked down eight 3-pointers in just 26 minutes during a 30-point performance that helped upset the No. 15-ranked Orangemen, 83-63. Friel scored 20 points in the first half and helped the Irish overcome a 11-0 start from SU.
- After the season, Friel moved on to play for Virginia, where he was basically a 3-point/free-throw specialist that averaged no more than nine points per game.
- Before going on to have a successful NBA career, Croshere was a secret weapon for the Friars tallying a career-best 28 points and collecting 14 rebounds in a 71-69 overtime victory over Syracuse in the first round of the Big East Tournament. Croshere scored four points in the final minute–three came on an and-one opportunity when he dunked over John Wallace, who fouled him.
- To make matters worse, Syracuse tied the game with three seconds remaining when Todd Burgan tipped-in a missed shot from Michael Lloyd.
- The 6-foot-11, Italian brute came off the bench to score six straight points to help the Johnnies earn a come-from-behind victory, 70-69, in the Big East Championship game. Here's what the game recap had to say about Baldi's performance:
"Who is he, anyway?" Boeheim said. "We didn't have him in our scouting reports."
Baldi bounced his way into the lane and scored. Then he went to the line and hit two. Then he drew Seikaly's fifth foul and hit two more free ones, making it 63-61.
"When he hit the free throws I figured it was a bad sign," Boeheim said.
"I definitely wasn't expecting that," Washington said.
"What did they mean by that?" Baldi demanded.
With all these Masssiminos and Pitinos and Carneseccas around, and now Baldi, the rumor spread that the Big East is going to replace the national anthem with "That's Amore" next year. At times, Looie even speaks the native tongue with Baldi. "I don't know all these expressions (in English)," Baldi said.
Baldi was quiet the rest of the way, but St. John's was flying.
Old-School Bonus (1968)
Calvin Murphy, G/F, Niagara Purple Eagles
- In the same calendar year, Murphy topped 50 points against Syracuse. In his first season, he netted 50 against the Orangemen and then during his second season he topped his own mark netting 68 points.
- Murphy's performance came during a three-year stretch in which Jim Boeheim wasn't a part of SU.
Editor Note: TNIAAM is sure there are more notable performance pre-1998 and we would love for you to share them in the comments section below.