The Spiders, under head coach Dick Tarrant, stunned Syracuse 73-69 on March 15, 1991, to become the first 15th seed to beat a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
“At the pre-game meal, I told them that nobody thought we could beat Indiana in 1988 when they were defending champions and won the Big Ten, but we did,” said Tarrant, whose team also pulled off an upset in 1984, knocking off Auburn. “Good things happen when you coach great kids who are motivated to play.
“When we beat Indiana we beat a whole mystique. We had tremendous publicity not only around the country but around the world. I don’t think anything can be top shelf over that. But this is another great feather in our bonnet, I must say.”
The Orangemen never led but closed to within 70-69 with 21 seconds remaining. Syracuse then fouled Spiders freshman guard Eugene Burroughs, who had played only six minutes in the game.
“I was a little nervous because I hadn’t played that much the whole game,” Burroughs said after the game. “Then I saw my dad in the crowd and he kind of pumped his fist in the air and that inspired me.”
He made both free throws to give Richmond a 72-69 lead and seal the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history.
“Needless to say, I’m delighted with the victory,” Tarrant said after the game. “There were 40 minutes of never trailing. Our kids in every huddle said, ‘This is our game. We’re going to win it.'”
Junior guard Curtis Blair led the Spiders with 18 points and senior forward Terry Connolly, who started his career at Shepherd College, came off the bench for 14 points and seven rebounds.
“It’s hard to describe what we did, a feeling you can’t really put into words,” Connolly said. “You just beat the Big East champions. It hasn’t sunk in yet.”
“Upset against Syracuse,” added Spiders sophomore forward Kenny Wood.
“Not too many people get this opportunity. Young kids dream about this, coming into a sold-out arena against a nationally ranked team … we had nothing to lose, really.”
Since then, 15th seeds have won seven times in the NCAA Tournament, including Middle Tennessee’s 90-81 victory against Michigan State this year.
On the cover and above: Richmond celebrates its upset of No. 2-seeded Syracuse in the 1991 NCAA Tournament. (Courtesy Richmond Athletics)
THIS WEEK’S GREATEST MOMENTS
• Monday: Quinnipiac and Radford
• Tuesday: Rensselaer (RPI) and Rhode Island
• Wednesday: Rice and Richmond
• Thursday: St. Bonaventure and St. Cloud State
• Friday: Saint Joseph’s and St. Lawrence