NEW YORK – Syracuse outlasted Connecticut in the second-longest Division I game ever, capping a Big East tournament quarterfinal doubleheader in which the second- and third-ranked teams in the country both lost.
Connecticut's Kemba Walker lays on the floor after missing a shot at the end of the fifth overtime period against Syracuse during a quarterfinal NCAA college basketball game at the Big East men's tournament Thursday, March 12, 2009 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Syracuse won 127-117. [Agencies]
Andy Rautins hit a 3-pointer 10 seconds into the sixth overtime Thursday night, giving the Orange their first lead since regulation and they went on to a 127-117 victory over the third-ranked Huskies.
Much earlier in the evening, West Virginia beat No. 2 Pittsburgh 74-60, meaning that instead of a much-anticipated third meeting between two teams that held the No. 1 ranking this season in the semifinals it will be sixth-seeded and 18th-ranked Syracuse and the seventh-seeded Mountaineers.
The game finished one overtime short of the record set in Cincinnati's 75-73 victory over Bradley on Dec. 21, 1981.
Top-seeded and fifth-ranked Louisville will meet fourth-seeded and 10th-ranked Villanova in the other semifinal.
There were some staggering numbers besides the overtimes. The game started at 9:36 p.m. and ended at 1:22 a.m.
Jonny Flynn had 34 points and 11 assists for the Orange (25-8), playing 67 of the 70 minutes, the most of any player. Paul Harris had 29 points and 22 rebounds, while Eric Devendorf had 22 points and Rautins had 20, all but two on 3-pointers.
The Orange made 40 of 51 free throws.
A.J. Price had 33 points and 10 assists for the Huskies (27-4), while Stanley Robinson had 28 points and was one of three Connecticut players with 14 rebounds. Hasheem Thabeet had 19 points, 14 rebounds and six of the Huskies' 16 blocked shots.
"I have never been prouder of a team than I am tonight," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "They just kept fighting, ... hanging in there and toughing it out and fighting."
Flynn said he kept telling his teammates, "This is destined for us. I told them, `We played this long, all we can do is win this game.'"
What will almost be forgotten as this game is recounted over the years was that it was almost over before even one overtime was played.
Connecticut's Kemba Walker, one of the smallest players on the court, grabbed a loose rebound and laid it in with 1.1 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 71. After a Syracuse timeout, Harris ran the baseline and threw an inbounds pass past midcourt that was deflected by Connecticut's Gavin Edwards right into the hands of Devendorf, who let a shot go from about 28 feet just as the red lights around the backboard went off.
It went in, and Devendorf jumped up on the courtside press table, pounding his chest and screaming as his teammates reached up and pulled him down to the court.
The play was reviewed as are all shots near the end of halves, and veteran officials John Cahill and Bob Donato watched replay after replay, finally stepping back and ruling the shot was late, sending the game into the first of the six 5-minute overtimes.
Connecticut took the lead in each of the first five overtimes but Syracuse found a way to come back in each of the them. Rautins' 3 to start the sixth overtime gave the Orange their first lead since 71-69 with 27 seconds to go in regulation.
The first overtime ended tied at 81 when Walker ducked between two Syracuse players for a 3-point attempt at the buzzer but it was short.
The second overtime almost had an ending for the ages when Walker let go with a shot from just inside midcourt that bounced off the back of the rim, leaving it tied 87.
Connecticut scored the first six points of the third overtime, and the Huskies were still ahead by six on Jeff Adrien's follow dunk with 2:08 left. Harris scored consecutive field goals for Syracuse and after Price made one free throw with 21 seocnds left for a 98-95 lead, Rautins hit a 3 with 11 seconds left to tie it. Price missed a 3 and Adrien was off with the rebound and it was time for the fourth overtime which made this the longest Big East tournament game ever played.
Price missed a drive with 10 seconds left in the fouorth overtime and Harris had two shots blocked in the final seconds to send it to No. 5 tied at 104.
Price took an NBA-distance 3-pointer with 6 seconds left in the fifth overtime and it bounced off the rim to Adrien who was short with a jumper at the buzzer, leaving the game tied at 110.
The players seemed exhausted and most of the sellout crowd of 19,375 were still in their seats, or at least standing in front of them, for the sixth overtime.
Because four players from each team fouled out, players who rarely saw action all season were on the court in the final 5 minutes.
The only previous triple-overtime game in Big East tournament history was Syracuse's 83-80 victory over Villanova in the 1981 championship game, just the second one ever played, and a game that featured Leo Rautins of the Orange, Andy's father.
The previous highest scoring game in Big East tournament history was Villanova's 96-93 first-round win over Pittsburgh in double overtime in 1998.