1995–96 Syracuse Orangemen basketball team
The 1995–96 Syracuse Orangemen basketball team represented Syracuse University. The head coach was Jim Boeheim, serving for his 20th year. The team played its home games at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York. The team finished with a 29–9 (12–6) record, while making it to the Championship Game of the NCAA tournament.
|1995–96 Syracuse Orangemen men's basketball|
NCAA Tournament, Runner-Up
|Conference||Big East Conference (1979–2013)|
|1995–96 record||29–9 (12–6 Big East)|
|Assistant coach||Bernie Fine|
|Home arena||Carrier Dome|
|1995–96 Big East men's basketball standings|
|Big East 6|
|No. 3 Connecticut†||17||–||1||.944||32||–||3||.914|
|No. 10 Villanova||14||–||4||.778||26||–||7||.788|
|Big East 7|
|No. 4 Georgetown||13||–||5||.722||29||–||8||.784|
|No. 15 Syracuse||12||–||6||.667||29||–||9||.763|
|† 1996 Big East Tournament winner |
As of April 1, 1996; Rankings from AP Poll
The team was led by seniors John Wallace and Lazarus Sims. Fellow senior J.B. Reafsnyder, juniors Jason Cipolla and Otis Hill, sophomore Todd Burgan and Marius Janulis played key roles. Walk-on and future NFL star Donovan McNabb also appeared in five games.
Syracuse was aided by the return of John Wallace, who had declared for the NBA draft, but chose to withdraw his early entry. Wallace would lead Syracuse in scoring for 30-of-38 games, leading Syracuse to an early 11–0 record.
With the Orangemen hitting a bump in mid-season losing five of eight Big East games, Boeheim chose to insert Jason Cipolla into the starting lineup in favor of Marius Janulis. The move worked as Syracuse would go 8–1 to finish the regular season with a record of 22–7. Syracuse would advance to the Big East Championship semi-finals, where it was knocked off by Connecticut, 85–67.
Syracuse was named a No. 4 seed for the tournament, and played one of its most memorable games in the Sweet 16 against Georgia. Cipolla hit a jumper as time expired in regulation to send the game to overtime, and John Wallace sealed the victory with a 3-pointer with 2 seconds remaining to propel Syracuse to an 83–81 win. Wallace finished with 30 points and 15 rebounds in that game.
Syracuse would knock off the Paul Pierce, Raef LaFrentz and Jacques Vaughn-led Kansas in the Elite 8, and Erick Dampier and the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the National Semifinal game. This set up a matchup between Jim Boeheim and former assistant Rick Pitino, who was now head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats in the National Championship game.
Syracuse, a heavy underdog, nearly overcame a 13-point second-half deficit, closing to within 2, but Kentucky held on for a 76–67 victory. Kentucky featured a deep team, including future NBA players Derek Anderson, Antoine Walker, Tony Delk and Ron Mercer.
- sports-reference.com 1995-96 Big East Conference Season Summary
- Keefe, Gavin, "Big East Notes: The Big East 7 and Big East 6? Big Deal!", The Day, January 1, 1996, p. 7.
- "PLUS: COLLEGE BASKETBALL -- BIG EAST CONFERENCE; League Cuts Games In Search of Bids," The New York Times, August 7, 1998.
- BASKETBALL;A Battle of the Big East's Best: It's UConn vs. Georgetown – New York Times
- N.C.A.A. TOURNAMENT: WEST;Syracuse Hits the Shot; Arizona Doesn't – New York Times
- Washingtonpost.com: Syracuse's Defense Tops 'Dogs, 77–69
- BASKETBALL;Relentless Kentucky Captures Championship – New York Times