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Apparently, You Can’t Take Zoo Out of Syracuse Basketball Fans

Associated Press

Start with 32,229 hard-core basketball fans.

Stir in a grudge.

That’s a recipe for excitement.

Then throw in some oranges and it turns hot and sour.

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But Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim found a way to keep it cool Monday night. He added a few calming, warning words, and the Orangemen cooked up a sweet 65-63 victory Monday night over Georgetown, the defending national champion.

Things routinely reach the boiling point in the Carrier Dome at Syracuse, where wildness is a way of life for the student body. It’s not as sizzling as the old days, when the team’s previous home, 9,000-seat Manley Fieldhouse, was known as the Zoo.

Boeheim, it must be remembered, was unhappy four years ago with the move from Manley, where the fans--albeit fewer of them--were much closer to the court and their voices thundered off the walls. That was intimidation that helped them in every game, he said.

On Monday night, it cost them a point--and very nearly the game.

With 3:26 gone in the first half, Patrick Ewing, Georgetown’s dominating center and a pretty good foul shooter, was at the free-throw line. As he took the shot, an orange--unofficial symbol of the team--splattered against the backboard.

Ewing, clearly distracted, missed the shot.

Georgetown Coach John Thompson was upset, too. He pulled his Hoyas off the floor.

Boeheim took the microphone and told the student section he would ask the referees to call a technical foul against his team if another orange came out of the stands.

“And if I hear ‘that thing’ after the foul shot,” he added, “I’m going to ask the referees to give us a technical.” That thing is an obscenity that students routinely chant at opposition players at the foul line.

The Hoyas then returned to the court and Ewing to the foul line, awarded an extra shot by the officials. He made this one.

And if Syracuse guard Dwayne Washington hadn’t made the shot with eight seconds remaining that gave Syracuse a 64-63 lead (he also made a free throw with four seconds to go), Ewing’s extra free throw would have been Georgetown’s margin of victory.

Neither Thompson nor Ewing would discuss the incident after the game, both responding, “What crowd?”

Mike Holdridge, the Carrier Dome’s publicist, said Tuesday that Boeheim “made a lot of friends” among nonstudent ticket-holders by silencing the student section. But he said Boeheim’s brief speech over the public address system could rebound.

“Everybody has to assume that the orange was thrown by one of our fans,” Holdridge said. “When Jimmy makes a statement like that, what’s to prevent a Georgetown fan from throwing one? It would be an ideal way to hit Syracuse with a couple of technicals.


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