Syracuse-UConn: Orange Win in a Game To End All Games
NEW YORK—Syracuse and Connecticut had 70 minutes of game time and three hours and 46 minutes of real time to figure out how to describe Thursday night's six-overtime battle between the Huskies and the Orange.
But when it came time to step up to podium after the marathon, nobody could come up with words to recount the night's 127-117 Orange win at Madison Square Garden in New York.
"I've got no words to even try to describe it," were the first words out of Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim's mouth at the post-game news conference. All the SU representatives—Boeheim, Jonny Flynn, and Paul Harris—could do were poke fun at the event and each other.
"I'm just proud of these guys for hanging in there and especially Paul [Harris] because Paul was just, I can't describe how awful he was for most of the part of that game," Boeheim joked.
"He was even smart enough to miss the dunk so he could get a three-point play. How much smarter can you be than that?"
Boeheim was referring to Harris' attempt to throw down a monster dunk in the sixth and final overtime, but missed terribly. That play is probably the earliest play anyone can remember about the game.
"I just wanted to get the game over with," Flynn said. "For a second I'm just thinking, Lord, let's get this game over and go home."
Flynn had good reason to want to go home. The super sophomore played over 67 minutes, which was six minutes more than anyone else. He totaled 34 points, 11 assists, and somehow found the energy to nail all 16 of his free throws. Flynn had extra motivation to hit all his attempts from the charity stripe.
"When AO [Arinze Onuaku] hit two free throws, we had pressure on us to hit our free throws," Flynn said. Onuaku, a 29.6 percent free throw shooter, connected on two free throws with just over two minutes left to break the 11th tie of the game.
UConn capped off its comeback with a Kemba Walker putback to tie the game in the second half. Then the craziness began.
A full-court pass made it into the hands of Syracuse's Eric Devendorf, who launched a miraculous three that found the bottom of a net that was probably as fatigued as the players.
Madison Square Garden erupted. For five minutes, everyone in the building stood staring at three officials huddled over a little monitor.
Those three officials ruled it no good. If the ball left Devendorf's hands a tenth of a second sooner, we wouldn't be talking about six overtimes, we'd be talking about one of the greatest buzzer-beaters in NCAA history. Both scenarios presented win-win situations for the 'Cuse when it came to the memory books.
"I was mad," Devendorf said, "I was furious. We couldn't lose at that point. If we lost, that would have been a dagger."
The Orange was on the verge of losing in each of the first five overtimes.
In the opening overtime, SU trailed by four, but the squad came back with a Rick Jackson dunk to tie the game.
In the second, the 'Cuse trailed by three, but Devendorf's free throws sent it to a third extra session.
The third overtime? More of the same.
This time UConn jumped out to a six-point lead with two minutes on the clock. Eventually, an Andy Rautins three tied the game. Ironically, Leo Rautins, Andy's dad, played for the Orange 28 years ago and won what was the longest game in the Big East Tournament history with a tip-in.
Flynn also kiddingly wanted UConn to give in after the third OT.
"I said to A.J. [Price], you're a one seed regardless, just let us win at this point," Flynn said.
To the fourth overtime the two teams went. The Huskies once again led, this time by only two points. Two missed Paul Harris layups sent the never-ending contest to a fifth OT.
UConn once again grabbed a four-point lead, only to squander it as SU started another parade to the free throw line to send it to a sixth and final overtime.
At this point, a game of rock, paper, scissors would have been a fairer way to end it. SU resorted to playing small forward Kris Joseph at center with the team's three big men fouled out. The 'Cuse also had walk-on Justin Thomas record seven minutes of action.
UConn was in just as much trouble. Jim Calhoun was forced to use Donnell Beverly and Scottie Haralson.
SU's group of misfits outscored UConn's misfits 17-7 in the sixth and final extra period. The sixth overtime was the only time in all six overtimes that the 'Cuse led the game.
"You can't say enough about the guys off the bench," said Rautins. "They took charges and got rebounds."
At the end of the game, everyone in the building was tired and exhausted. Pretty much the entire crowd stuck around for all six sessions, and most fans stood for all six overtimes.
The game lasted so long it seemed like the inebriated fans around me in the upper deck press row were sobering up.
Even SU assistant coach Mike Hopkins needed some medical advice from a 'Cuse trainer after the game.
"He told me to get some water and Gatorade and I'll be good to watch game tape until the earliest hours of the morning," Hopkins said. Apparently Hopkins didn't realize he was saying this at almost 2 AM—it was already the earliest hours of the night.
Obviously, not everyone was in a jovial mood after the game.
"I'm sure in the summertime I'll look back and say what a historic battle it was," said Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun. "Right now, it's a loss. There's no other way."
But Calhoun will remember it. All 19,000 people in attendance will remember this game. The hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people who watched it on television, will remember this game. Jonny Flynn will remember this game.
"I'll tell my kids about it," Flynn said, "I'll tell my grandkids about it."
Ironically, two NBA scouts were sitting in the upper deck press row and left the game for the night in second half. I said to them, "Why you leaving?"
The one responded, "We've seen these kinds of games all the time."
I'm going to go out on a limb and gander they have never seen what went on in the world's most famous arena Thursday night (and Friday morning).
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