Roy Hibbert knows the basics of the story.

He knows Georgetown came away with a win in the last game played in the old Syracuse gym. The name Manley Field House escapes him, and so does the year, 1980, but he remembers “Big Coach,” John Thompson Jr., talking about the game.

What he doesn’t remember – or didn’t say – is that Syracuse was on a 57-game home winning streak entering that game, and that the Hoyas came from more than 10-points down to pull off a stunning upset against the No. 2 Orangemen. That affair was also the first between the two teams as members of the Big East.

What everyone remembers best about that game was Thompson declaring proudly and loudly in the postgame press conference: “Manley Field House is officially closed.”

Hibbert spoke to reporters Wednesday, 28 years to the day after that upset. In the 60 meetings since, Georgetown has won 29. Thirty-two games have been decided by fewer than 10 points, including 18 decided by three or fewer. And, since that inaugural Big East season, Georgetown and Syracuse have combined for 12 of the 28 league tournament championships, with the Hoyas having won seven, more than any other team.

While the faces have changed over the years, the rivalry, which most agree started that February evening in Syracuse, has remained strong.

Anyone who was a Georgetown fan in 1980 remembers where he was for that epic Manley Field House finale. Kevin O’Brien (CAS ’73, LAW ’76), who has been a season-ticket holder for over 30 years, watched the game on a 12-inch TV at his house on Q Street. Michael Karam (SFS ’72, LAW ’76, LAW ’81), also a longtime ticket holder, listened to the game on the radio from the Georgetown Law Center, where he was taking graduate courses. A 14-year-old John Thompson III tuned into the radio broadcast from his dining room.

The Hoyas were already behind 30-16 at the end of the first half, one in which they shot 21 percent. They closed to within six by the 10-minute mark of the second half, and with 2:10 remaining, trailed by four. Syracuse went on to miss five of its eight free throws before time expired and Georgetown’s Craig Shelton (CAS ’80) and Ed Spriggs (CAS ’82) each scored big buckets down the final stretch. With five seconds to play, Eric “Sleepy” Floyd (CAS ’82) knocked down a pair of free throws to give the Hoyas the victory.

Then it was time for Thompson’s famous proclamation:

“Manley Field House is officially closed.”

A rivalry was born.

Georgetown’s win at Manley Field House was not one of those moments seen as a tipping point only with 28 years of hindsight. Less than two years later, Georgetown-Syracuse had been elevated from fledgling feud to what The Washington Post called “A Rivalry to Revel In.”

“That last game at Manley was supposed to be a festive occasion for them,” Thompson Jr. told The Washington Post in January 1982. “And then, after we won the game, I said that we had to officially close the place down. You think they loved us after that?”

Thompson also said that the rivalry “has gotten like the Hatfields versus the McCoys.”

Two years later, Georgetown would produce one of its most impressive wins over the Orange. Using 27 points, 16 rebounds and five blocked shots from Patrick Ewing (CAS ’85), the Hoyas surged past Syracuse, 82-71 in overtime, to give Georgetown the Big East tournament title.

While Hoya faithful remember that game as a stepping stone to the NCAA title, up north it is viewed as example No. 1 of Georgetown’s unfairly physical style of play. Georgetown’s Michael Graham allegedly punched Andre Hawkins in the face with 3:52 left in the game, but all the Orangemen received was a simple two-shot foul.

“The refs pure and simple took the game away from us,” Syracuse Jim Boeheim told reporters after the game, adding, “Today, the best team didn’t win.”

Georgetown fans are also quick to cite another Big East tournament final three years later as an unforgettable bout between the Hoyas and the Orange. “Reggie and the Miracles,” as that squad had come to be called, got 25 points from its hero, Reggie Williams (CAS ’87), to unseat the 10th-ranked Orange, 69-59.

When the 1980s came to a close, Georgetown had won 17 of the 25 meetings that decade. The Hoyas won all nine of their home games.

But the tide turned in the 1990s. Syracuse won the first five, several of them thanks to Derrick Coleman and Billy Owens. As John Thompson Jr.’s reign began to falter, the Orangemen went on another run, winning the final five meetings of the decade. Even with Allen Iverson suiting up in the blue and gray, Georgetown could only split four meetings with the John Wallace-led Orange.

Still, even when either – or both – toiled in mediocrity, the rivalry remained strong.

“Even in a down year, there’s simply no dismissing the battle that built the Big East,” Washington Times scribe Barker Davis wrote in 1997. “Since the formation of the league in 1979, no rivalry has defined the nation’s black-and-blue conference like Georgetown vs. Syracuse. Although the face of the Big East has changed dramatically over 18 years, clashes between the Hoyas and Orangemen have retained their luster.”

Even in the early 2000s, when many of the games didn’t matter much in the standings, the animosity between Georgetown and Syracuse remained ever-present. On Feb. 24, 2001, though both teams were ranked in the bottom half of the top 25, Hoyas faithful flooded onto the court after the final buzzer to celebrate a 72-61 victory.

“MCI Center was awash in Hoya Joya,” The Washington Post said the next day.

Before the beginning of the current season, Sports Illustrated released five regional covers of its college basketball preview. Each featured an “emerging” (or reemerging) rivalry. They were: Illinois-Indiana, Memphis-Tennessee, USC-UCLA, Texas-Texas A&M and Georgetown-Syracuse. What makes Hoyas-Orange unique is that, unlike the other four, and unlike the most storied of them all, UNC-Duke, it is a rivalry that isn’t based on geography. Georgetown and Syracuse are rivals for the most basic of reasons: the competition.

John Hawkes (SFS ’04) was a student on the Hilltop during some of the Hoyas toughest years, and yet the feud between the two teams hardly waned.

“What distinguishes the Georgetown-Syracuse rivalry is the history,” he says. “This is a rivalry founded on big games in the best conference in modern college basketball. It’s Thompson and Boeheim, Ewing and Pearl, Braswell and Shumpert if you’re from my era. It’s Manley Field House, McDonough Gym, Madison Square Garden. Every generation has one or two truly classic GU-‘Cuse games they can point to and say, `This is what makes college basketball great.'”

Brian Harrison, a 2005 graduate from Syracuse who writes a popular Orange basketball blog, orange44.blogspot.com, points to Georgetown-Syracuse as the main reason for the Big East’s prominence as a conference.

“The Hoyas won or tied for the Big East regular season title five out of the first 10 years of the conference, including a National Championship in 1984,” he said. “Syracuse, lifetime against the Hoyas, currently leads 42 to 36. Even at the pinnacle of Georgetown’s success, they still had to deal with the Orange.”

The rise of televised college basketball may also be a reason the rivalry has flourished. ESPN hit the air in 1979 and carried many of the big GU-`Cuse games of the ’80s.

“Every game between the teams was nationally televised, including numerous Big East tournament games,” said John Reagan (GSB ’84), a former editor in chief of THE HOYA. “In the first 10 years of the conference, either Georgetown or Syracuse won eight titles, and met each other seven times in the tournament’s semifinals or finals. For TV, this was ratings gold.”

John Thompson Jr. and Jim Boeheim are also largely to thank for the historic rivalry. Syracuse fans see Thompson, white towel draped over his shoulder, as loud, imposing and a bully. Georgetown supporters look at Boeheim as perpetually wining, while Thompson’s physical man-to-man defense and Boeheim’s 2-3 zone both became synonymous with their teams.

Over the years, though, the rivalry has started to transcend the individuals. It has outlasted Patrick Ewing and Michael Graham, Kevin Braswell and Mike Sweetney, Pearl Washington and Andre Hawkins. Boeheim has coached the Orange since 1976, but the rivalry will almost certainly transcend him as well.

“The Georgetown-Syracuse rivalry is synonymous with the Big East,” John Thompson III said Wednesday. “When you think Big East basketball, you think Georgetown-Syracuse. Regardless of who is sitting on the bench, who is in uniform on the court, or who is having a good year and who’s not, it is an intense, heated game.”

As the teams have battled it out on the court and the players have grown to dislike one another, fans began to assume a similar attitude. Even freshmen whose first Georgetown-Syracuse game was last month at Verizon Center got a taste of the animosity between the two squads. Because Verizon Center holds 20,000 fans and Syracuse has a significant alumni base in the area and hordes of fans that will travel, almost any game in D.C. is attended by a large and loud contingent of visiting fans.

“My feelings for `Cuse cannot be described in simple terms, and it’s hard for me to even explain it properly,” says Kurt Muhlbauer (COL ’07), a former president of Hoya Blue. “I simply have a burning hatred for them deep inside of me and despise them more than any other team in sports. . Also, their fans are so completely obnoxious that thinking about them celebrating and taunting us makes me sick.”

Counters Harrison: “Generally, Syracuse does not like Georgetown or anything associated with it,” he said. “I attended the most recent game between the two schools in Washington and I found some of the students to be very unpleasant, but that is with every school and you will find the same at Syracuse I am sure.”

Harrison alluded to something else that makes the rivalry one of the best. Like Yankees-Red Sox, where each side has come up with wildly inflammatory reasons to hate the other, Georgetown and Syracuse fans have assumed a sort-of over-the-top enmity.

“I mean, we find the big men on your team ugly, we hate the fact you have gray uniforms instead of white, and no one thinks your mascot is likable in any way,” Harrison said. “Really the whole rivalry comes down to thinking that John Thompson was a complete jerk and the generalization that all of the students at Georgetown are over-privileged and act like they are better than everyone.”

Harrison said that one of the Syracuse pep band’s traditions was spawned the same night Thompson Jr. uttered his famous words. After Thompson bellowed “Manley Field House is officially closed,” a band member cried out, “And Georgetown still sucks.” Now, during each basketball game, the student directing the band will ask for the time, and after he receives an answer, the rest of the band will cry, “And Georgetown still sucks.”

But some fans, even those who witnessed the 1980s ferocity, have mellowed a bit. Karam said that he has reached the point where he is willing to root for Syracuse against an out-of-conference foe if it means the Big East is going to look good, something he once could not do.

“I think that part of my change in thinking has to do with something that a sage Syracuse fan (not necessarily an oxymoron) said to me after last year’s whooping of us at the Dome,” Karam wrote in an e-mail. “He said: `Don’t worry! You’ll go to bed and tomorrow, you will still have a Georgetown degree. These fans will go to bed, and tomorrow, they are still in Syracuse!”

With the Hoyas (20-3, 10-2) set to go into the Carrier Dome tomorrow looking for their first win in the building since 2001-02, they are fully accepting of the added burden that the rivalry places on their shoulders.

“It is special to take part in these games,” Thompson III said.

“It’s always a big rival of ours,” Hibbert said. “The history is deep and rich and everything like that so we have to come out on top.”

Hibbert added that all through high school, his coach, former Hoyas guard Dwayne Bryant (CAS ’90), talked about Georgetown-Syracuse.

“I try to get as many as I can for him,” Hibbert said.

The Hoyas will be especially cognizant of the atmosphere in Syracuse – upwards of 30,000 spectators are expected – since they lost there last year, snapping an 11-game winning streak.

“I pay attention to [the crowd] probably more than anyone else,” Patrick Ewing Jr. said. “It’s always fun to play in front of big crowds that mostly hate you. It kind of brings the best out of you.”

“It’s a big time environment,” senior guard Jonathan Wallace said. “Syracuse, they always play us tough at home. We go there and it seems everything is against us.”

For the fans, Saturday offers an opportunity for many Hoya supporters to make a trip to the Carrier Dome. Hoya Blue is sending four busses with approximately 188 students. Ray Borgone (MSB ’08), president of Hoya Blue, said that he thinks several other small groups will make the trip as well. And Muhlbauer will be making his first voyage to the Dome.

“I’ve had to listen to their obnoxious fans at the Verizon Center for years now,” he said. “It’s time for some payback.”

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