So there I was, sitting on the floor of the living next to Penny (who was thinking aobut waking up) with 1.1 seconds left in the Syracuse-Connecticut Big East quarterfinal game. As Eric Devendorf hit a despearation three-pointer to seemingly win the game, I exclaimed “Oh my God” in such a manner that my wife – who was on the computer – instantly knew what happened.
“They hit it?” she said.
“Yep” was my reply.
Replay revealed that Devendorf still held the ball as time expired, sending the game into overtime. My wife and I decided to watch, figuring an extra five minutes of basketball would be fun.
Those five minutes, though, turned out to be 30, and Syracuse’s eventual win might be one of the greatest college basketball games ever played.
UConn pulled ahead in the first OT – and Syracuse tied it. UConn gained an early lead in the second OT – and the Orange tied it. So it went until the sixth overtime, when Syracuse – playing a never-used center and walk-on guard because four of its regulars had fouled out – finally pulled ahead on the backs of Niagara Falls natives Paul Harris and Jonny Flynn.
Cuse figured to be in trouble because of the trouble it had penetrating UConn’s defense. But the Huskies’ big men eventually fouled out, allowing Flynn to drive and score at will as the game progressed … and progressed … and progressed.
Among other things, this game showed that Flynn – who played about 67 minutes – could probably make the jump to the NBA after this season if he wanted to (I hope to God he stays four years, though). About an hour after most mortals wold have lose use of his legs, he strapped his team’s makeshift lineup on his back and told UConn to get out of the way.
This game should also put to rest the haters out there who said for part of the season that Syracuse was a bubble team, then once their spot in the NCAA tournament was secured figured the Orange to be one-and-done. To do this against the nation’s fourth-ranked team shows that, for at least one day, Syracuse can beat anyone, anytime.
Should they beat West Virginia in the semifinals – about 19 hours after the 70-minute marathon concluded – they’ll solidify their status as that 4-seed a lot of people think will pull the upset and go to the Final Four.
But before all that, take a minute and reflect on the glory that was last night’s game. If you have anyone in your life who questions your love of sports, make them watch a replay of this game. The drive, determination, teamwork and inner toughness exhibited last night are all shining examples of what’s right with sports.
At one point – maybe the fifth overtime – my wife asked me if I would have stayed up to watch the game if I knew it was goig to last so long. I replied of course, because you’re very rarely going to see such a great game, where one team refuses to submit. Taking it in was an absolute thrill (the fact my team won made things a bit better, but ultimately both sides should look back fondly upon this night).
I wasn’t there, but just watching it was an honor – and an exhausting endeavor.