March 5, 2006
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) - Fans came in record numbers to celebrate the career of Gerry McNamara. Then the Villanova Wildcats put a damper on their day.
The win for Villanova (24-3, 14-2 Big East) earned the Wildcats a tie for the conference title with Connecticut and a second seed in the Big East tournament. Syracuse (19-12, 8-9), which has won just three times in its last 13 games, will play Cincinnati (19-11, 8-8) on Wednesday in a game with big implications for the NCAA tournament.
McNamara, one of the most popular players in Syracuse history, is the only one with 2,000 career points, 600 career assists and 250 career steals, and he was treated as royalty by the sellout crowd of 33,633, an NCAA on-campus record.
Before the game, chants of "Gerry! Gerry! Gerry!" reverberated throughout the Carrier Dome as a video montage of his stellar career played high above Jim Boeheim Court. "Thanks Gerry, we'll never forget you" blared over the public-address system as he accepted a framed No. 3 jersey, blew kisses to the crowd, grabbed his heart and waved, then cried on his mother Joyce's shoulders.
The Carrier Dome was sold out in advance of a basketball game for the first time since the building opened in 1980, a tribute to McNamara. More than 3,000 fans from his hometown of Scranton, Pa., packed over 60 buses to make the two-hour trip north.
They didn't get the ending they wanted, though, despite a game-high 29 points and eight assists by McNamara in his 130th straight start, tops in the nation.
The Wildcats built an 11-point lead in the opening 4 minutes, withstood several rallies by the Orange and finally took control to give Jay Wright his 100th win since taking over in 2001.
After Ray's three-point play gave Villanova a 58-47 lead with 14:46 left, McNamara and Eric Devendorf, who finished with 19 points, hit 3-pointers to move Syracuse within 62-56 at 11:29 as the crowd roared, sensing a comeback.
The Orange kept it a two-possession game until Foye and Mike Nardi hit 3-pointers to boost the Villanova lead to 81-69 with 4:24 left.
McNamara, who made five 3-pointers to bring his career total to 384, seventh all-time in NCAA history, scored eight straight points to pull the Orange back within 83-78 with just under 3 minutes remaining, but that was their last threat.
McNamara departed in the final minute to another deafening cheer and more tears.
Kyle Lowry finished with 17 points and Nardi had 12 for Villanova, which was 13-for-31 on 3-pointers.
It was the 62nd time in the Carrier Dome's history that attendance surpassed 30,000, five of them coming against the Wildcats. The previous NCAA on-campus attendance record was 33,199, set here a year ago against Notre Dame.
At halftime, Syracuse retired the No. 44 jersey worn by former star Derrick Coleman, who scored 2,143 points in his Syracuse career, behind only Lawrence Moten's 2,334. Coleman, who also registered a school-record 1,537 rebounds, was the Big East's player of the year as a senior, the No. 1 pick in the 1990 NBA draft, and averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds in a 15-year NBA career.