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March 13, 2009

Six Overtimes, One Classic

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 1:57 am

Syracuse beat Connecticut 127-117 in six overtimes earlier this morning in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament. I saw the whole game, and it took close to four hours.

It shouldn’t have come to this. Eric Devendorf sank a three at the end of regulation that would have ended the game in any of the sport’s first ten decades. Now, of course, we “check the monitors.” And when they did the refs made the correct call: the ball was on Devendorf’s fingertips when the clock hit triple-zero. So 30 more minutes were played. Those 30 minutes acquired a kind of cumulative grace. 

Now, I should tell you that in my mind “conference tournament” and “classic” are tough to reconcile. Truth be told there really wasn’t much on the line here. UConn will still be a one-seed, even though they lost. Maybe the Orangemen can move up from a six- to a five-seed with a worthy performance at Madison Square Garden. But even if they do, that’s not what you’re going to tell your grandchildren.

And, frankly, in the second and third overtimes, I got the distinct feeling that both teams had that same thought. What are we doing this for? If we win we’re going to be exhausted tomorrow night against West Virginia. (In another universe the Mountaineers’ upset of Pitt would be big news right now.) If we lose, let’s rest up for the Dance.

Then a funny thing happened. By about the fourth overtime it was as if the sheer magnitude of the spectacle imparted its own adrenaline to the players on both sides. Then again, by the fifth overtime most everyone was gone. Devendorf, Arinze Onuaku, Kristof Ongenaet, Hasheem Thabeet, Stanley Robinson, even Gavin Edwards–they all fouled out. The only familiar names left at the end were Jonny Flynn, Andy Rautins, A.J. Price (and even he fouled out close to the end), and Jeff Adrien.  

At the start of the fifth overtime, Flynn came on the court without his headband. Why? I have no idea. I’ve never seen him without it. When it was all done he had played 67 minutes. In his postgame interview, he seemed ready to go for six more overtimes. Jim Boeheim, conversely, was emotional, effusive, and a little awed by the whole thing, I thought.

I know how he feels.

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