Syracuse-UConn: Gerry McNamara Was in the House, What Did You Expect?

Nick ConditCorrespondent IMarch 13, 2009

I first used this picture in my preseason preview of SU Orange basketball, and it seemed fitting to use it again. The funny thing is, when I found it the second time, it came from an article about how Jonny Flynn is overrated.


As an SU fan first, student second, I was upset about one thing and one thing only from last night's game.

Jonny Flynn showed the world how good he really is—good enough to impress pro scouts and maybe draw Flynn away from school and into the draft.

Syracuse is still a young team with only one senior that gets legitimate playing time in Kristof Ongenaet. The only player I see having a real shot at being a first round pick is Jonny Flynn. It remains to be seen how he'll play in the tourney, but if he decides to come back, Syracuse will be scary good.

If he doesn't, I'm scared of how the team will play without him leading the way.

Last night was the epitome of Big East basketball. It was the game all Big East followers knew was going to come from a historic conference season. The best of the best on the biggest stage.

Almost four hours and six overtimes later, we had witnessed a rivalry win in a famous arena with crazy shots--made and almost made, with walk-ons grabbing clutch rebounds and bench players nailing threes.

But with beloved Gerry McNamara cheering on his Orange in Madison Square Garden, what else but the best game in Big East Conference history could've been played?

Eric Devendorf and Andy Rautins combined to pull off McNamara's magic last night, but Devendorf didn't provide enough to let us all go to bed a couple hours earlier.

However, people forget that Syracuse just had to play defense up by two late in the fourth. On the last possession, UConn missed a couple of shots but got the rebounds, and the ball fell to Kemba Walker, who made the game-tying layup with just over a second left. I fell to the floor.

I was thinking overtime the whole way. 1.1 seconds? No way. But somehow the long in-bound pass got tipped right to No. 23, who drained the shot at the buzzer. I then proceeded to wake up all five other occupants of my house with cries of joy.

False alarm.


Then in overtime it looked like it could get away from the Orange as they were trailing by four. Where's McNamara when you need him? How about Andy Rautins? Rautins hit a big three to pull the deficit to just one. UConn missed a free throw, and 'Cuse trailed by two with seconds left.

Jonny Flynn started to take over. He penetrated deep into the lane and gave the ball off beautifully to Rick Jackson, who threw down an easy dunk to tie the game. The Huskies missed a buzzer-beater, and to the second overtime we went.

They traded baskets in the second, and Flynn missed a game-winning shot, as did Kemba Walker, to force a third OT.

This is when it looked like UConn would take it. Syracuse was down by six twice in the period, 87-93 and 91-97. But they kept battling, and Connecticut kept missing free throws. The Orange pulled it to 95-98 and needed more McNamara magic.

Rautins came up huge again and tied the game with a trey coming off a screen, forcing OT number four. Again the fam was awoken by shrieks typically unknown to mankind.  

Paul Harris was having an awful game from point blank range and couldn't finish with seconds left in the fourth OT. Jeff Adrien also had a couple game-winning attempts last night, but they wouldn't drop.

A.J. Price and Adrien missed last second shots in the fifth (the fifth? What is this, a baseball game?), and we went to the sixth. Hasheem Thabeet had been fouled out of the game, and Flynn starting getting to the basket with ease. He'd had some difficulty scoring field goals, but no trouble at all making free throws.

Rautins again made a splash, giving the Orange their first lead in any OT early in the sixth with a three, and Syracuse never looked back.

As for Harris, he was also huge from the stripe, making 13 of 14 free throws, while Jonny made all 16 of his attempts. 'Cuse was 23 of 26 from the line in the overtimes. The much-maligned Harris made a huge play in the sixth when he attempted a dunk and got stuffed by the rim, but stuck with it to put it back and in with a foul.

So you gotta give it to Harris for making those free throws and pulling down 22 rebounds. Obviously Flynn played like a man-child for 67 of the game's 70 minutes, scored 34 points, and added 11 assists. The key, though, was that he was able to limit turnovers, as UConn committed 11 more than the Orange.

Flynn showed his pro ability to penetrate, and when fouled he stepped up, even five overtimes deep, to make every single free throw attempt. They gave him nearly half his points. UConn only managed to make 24 of 42 free throws.

What a huge win it is for the Orange. What a confidence booster it will be regardless of the outcome tonight against West Virginia. They went deep into their bench and found a way to win. They gained valuable experience against an elite team in the country on a huge stage.

So we learned that Syracuse is truly a contender and has all the elements they need this year—including Gerry McNamara's magic-making ability in their backcourt.

Now, either of these teams can't really be surprised by anything they see in the NCAA Tournament--they just partook in an all out war. It was a game beneficial to both sides in many ways, a game beneficial to so many fans around the world, and a game beneficial to the sport of basketball itself.

What a game.