As a longtime Syracuse basketball fan, I’ve learned never to become over-confident or take anything for granted.
All too often, I’ve watched teams that showed great promise fall apart in the clutch or never reach their full potential. SU fans can recount numerous NCAA tournaments where the Orange fell in either the first or second round to opponents they should have easily defeated.
Overtime is another area that has made me very nervous over the years.
As much as I have enjoyed watching the 2008-09 team play this season, I wasn’t feeling particularly positive as they headed into the Big East tournament.
Sure, they could defeat Seton Hall in the first round, but Connecticut?
No, like many fans, I figured we’d have some fun Wednesday night and then fall once again to the Huskies who had defeated us twice in the regular season.
Syracuse wasn’t supposed to beat Connecticut.
Paul Harris said that one of the things that motivated the team was a general lack of respect.
In an interview with The Post-Standard’s Donna Ditota, Harris said as the team was coming into the locker room before the game, he overheard West Virginia’s De'Sean Butler talking about how his team needed to get ready to play Connecticut, assuming SU would lose.
Of course, that wasn’t the case. In a now-historic game that went into six overtimes, this team finally put it all together and gave us a game that will be remembered for years to come.
For the first time since the Orange won the national championship in 2003, SU fans all over the country shared a moment of pride.
For the team and fans, that pride carried over to Friday night’s game as a battered and tired Orange stood up to West Virginia, and in yet another overtime said, “Yes we can,” beating the Mountaineers 74-69.
Can the Orange come back and beat Louisville for the Big East title? While that remains to be determined, this tournament probably won’t be remembered so much as for who ultimately won it, but as for how that victory came about.
Fans will remember an exhausted Jonny Flynn nailing two free throws to seal the overtime victory against West Virginia or Eric Devendorf’s amazing 55-footer.
We’ll replay the Connecticut game over and over, watching in amazement as the game clock pops from five to six overtimes.
And we’ll all share and savor that sweet moment of victory that came in the early moments of Friday, March 13, 2009.