Syracuse and Connecticut started their Big East Championship Quarterfinal game on Thursday, a week from the start of the Big Dance. Well guess what boys and girls, by the time this one ended they may well be starting tomorrow. Coming off the heels of two other dynamite games featuring a buzzer beater by Villanova to get by Marquette and an upset victory by West Virginia over backyard rival Pittsburgh, Syracuse and UConn put on quite a show, which resulted in a 127-117 win by the Orange over the Huskies.
Now if you're thinking to yourself, I've never quite seen a game like this before in college hoops, odds are you haven't. Only one other game, a 75-73 win by Cincinnati over Bradley in 1981 went longer with seven overtime's. This was also the highest scoring game in Big East tournament history as well as the longest.
Of course all of it almost never happened.
An epic marathon finish almost ended in regulation on a buzzer beater. When Kemba Walker of the Huskies squared things at 71-71 with about 1.2 to go in regulation, the Orange's Paul Harris threw a bomb down court that got tipped by UConn into the hands of Eric Devendorf on what looked to be the game winning three. Upon further review by the officials, it didn't matter so much that Devendorf got fouled on the hand on the follow-through, but that he didn't get the shot off his finger tips in time for the bucket to count, so off to OT they went... and went... and went... and went some more.
Both squads had four players a piece foul out and the Orange had to trot out one of their walk-ons near the end of the overtime marathon. And what's even more incredible is that Syracuse never held a lead during the first five overtime's!
The Orange have now beaten the Huskies in four straight Big East Tournament contests, including the 2006 Quarterfinals where SU also topped UConn in OT. Jim Calhoun's Huskies are now 0-4 lifetime against Jim Boeheim's Orange in games that go to OT between these two. This game also marked the first time all season that UConn lost after leading at the half 37-34. The game in "real time" lasted 3 hours and 46 minutes and ended at around 1:22 a.m. on Friday morning.
UConn shot poorly from the line going just 24 for 42 at the charity stripe, before taking advantage of a late SU miss, they converted to send the game into OT. After leading a good majority of the 2nd half by the slimmest of margins, SU had to claw and fight to stick around during the extra sessions. Amazingly, SU was aided by their free throw shooting, knocking down 40 of 51.
If one wonders just exactly how Johnny Flynn and Paul Harris were able to play the bulk of nearly two games, look no further than last season when the two had to play the lion's share of minutes with injuries to Devendorf and Rautins along with other players quitting (Josh Wright) or dealing with personal issues (Scoop Jardine).
Flynn had an astounding 34 points with eleven assists, while his UConn counterpart A.J. Price had a stellar game scoring 33 with ten assists. Harris was an absolute beast on the boards, ripping down 22 to go along with his 29 points on the night. Speaking of rebounds, the Huskies had five players in double digits on the night.
But in the 6th OT with mostly all of both team's "bigs" out, guard play took over as Syracuse took their first lead in OT, going on an 8-0 run to put away Connecticut.
In any event Syracuse will play two games on this Friday the 13th and while nobody knows just how much they'll have left in the tank, one has to believe they'll be relying on their 6th sense to climb over the Mountaineers for the right to play the winner of the Cardinals and Wildcats for the Big East Championship.