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Classic Rewind: Reliving the Six Overtime Marathon Between Syracuse and Connecticut in the 2009 Big East Tournament.

Posted on March 15, 2019 by Chris Kent

It was one of the most entertaining games in the history of college basketball. The six overtime marathon of a battle between Syracuse and Connecticut in the quarterfinals of the 2009 Big East Tournament was for starters, thrilling. Adjectives are never ending in describing it. Phenomenal. Amazing. Exhausting. Climactic.

Syracuse players celebrate their thrilling six-overtime victory over Connecticut in the quarterfinals of the 2009 Big East Tournament on March 12 and 13.

Filled with the suspense and drama on when, not to mention if, the game would ever end, it was equally as attractive for  being a marquee matchup of two longtime Big East rivals lead by prestigious head coaches in Jim Boeheim of the Orange and Jim Calhoun of the Huskies. The glamour and glitz of New York City added to this game as the school’s dueled on the national stage of Madison Square Garden, known as the world’s most famous arena. Both teams were ranked in the AP Poll with Connecticut at No. 3 and Syracuse at No. 18. The sixth-seeded Orange and the third-seeded Huskies were also meeting for the fourth time in the last five seasons in the Big East Tournament with Syracuse having won the prior three matchups from 2005 through ’07.

In playing the longest ever game in the shot clock era, Syracuse and Connecticut tied for the second longest game in the history of NCAA Division I college basketball. Only two other games have ever gone six overtimes. Both those happened in the 1950’s when Minnesota beat Purdue 59-56 in 1955 and Niagara beat Siena 88-81 in 1953. The game was eclipsed in number of overtimes only by a game on Dec. 21, 1981 when Cincinnati beat Bradley 75-73 in seven overtimes. That game in 1981 tied for the most overtimes in the history of college basketball regardless of NCAA classification.

However overtime almost never happened for the Orange and Huskies.

Connecticut freshman guard Kemba Walker’s offensive rebound and layup with 1.1 seconds left in regulation tied the game at 71. Following a Syracuse timeout, Orange junior guard Eric Devendorf gathered a long inbounds pass off a deflection and quickly got off a 3-point shot that went in giving the Orange an apparent victory. However replays showed that the ball was still contacting Devendorf’s fingertips as the buzzer sounded and the basket was waived off by officials and the game went into overtime.

Syracuse guard Eric Devendorf is mobbed by teammates after hitting a 3-pointer at the end of regulation time only to learn moments later he did not get the shot off in time.

The drama was just beginning.

What transpired from this point on was a game of attrition more than anything else. When it was all said and done, Syracuse prevailed 127-117 in a game that lasted three hours and 46 minutes. It started at 9:36 pm on Thursday March 12 and ended at 1:22 am on Friday March 13. It was the longest game in Big East history and the only one to ever go at least five overtimes in the history of the conference, regular season or in the tournament. The two teams combined to score 244 points, attempt 209 field goals, make 82 field goals, and grab 143 rebounds.

These numbers reflected the tremendous execution and stamina that was displayed by players from both sides. Although a total of eight players fouled out, four from each team, most of those players were still available and productive into several of the overtime periods.

Sophomore point guard Jonny Flynn was a well-oiled machine for the Orange as he played 67 of a possible 70 minutes and finished with a game-high 34 points which included 16-for-16 foul shooting. Flynn also had game-highs of 11 assists and six steals which factored greatly into the win for Syracuse.

Jonny Flynn was spectacular for Syracuse in scoring a game-high 34 points.

Four other players scored in double figures for the Orange including junior forward Paul Harris who had 29 points and 22 rebounds. Harris shot 13-for-14 from the foul line. Devendorf scored 22 points while junior shooting guard Andy Rautins added 20 points sparked by a 6-for-12 effort from beyond the arc. Sophomore forward Rick Jackson finished with 10 points before fouling out in the fourth overtime. The combined 29-for-30 foul shooting effort by Flynn and Harris was part of a 40-for-51 effort by Syracuse for the game giving them a 16-point edge on the Huskies from the foul line where Calhoun’s team shot just 24-for-42. That made a difference in the end.

Senior guard A.J. Price lead Connecticut with 33 points and 10 assists while 6-9 sophomore forward Stanley Robinson scored 28 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, one of five players to grab at least 10 boards for the Huskies. Senior forward Jeff Adrien had 12 points, 14 rebounds, and dished out 7 assists while 7-3 junior center Hasheem Thabeet had 19 points, 14 rebounds, and a game-high 6 of Connecticut’s 16 blocks.

Jonny Flynn and Paul Harris left it all on the court in displaying remarkable performances.

As exhilarating as this game was for fans, it was equally as exhausting for all the players and coaches involved on each side. Truly, neither team lost this game. There was only a survivor. So on the 10-year anniversary of this game this week, here is a look back at how this game evolved from regulation through the sixth and final overtime.

REGULATION PLAY

While the game featured suspense after suspense in the overtimes, it was not void of pressure packed moments in regulation play. The game had a back-and-forth tempo to it all night long. The Huskies lead 37-34 at halftime. Neither team had a double-digit lead in regulation play during which the biggest margin was a seven point lead of 64-57 for the Orange with 3:56 left to play.

The last three minutes were tense with each possession. Syracuse did not convert a single field goal in the last three minutes, scoring its’ last seven points on 7-for-8 foul shooting. Senior forward Kristof Ongenaet hit the second of two foul shots putting the Orange in front 71-69 with 27 seconds left. Connecticut’s final possession saw senior guard Craig Austrie miss a jumper with seven seconds left. Walker rebounded the miss and converted a layup for a 71-71 tie with 1.1 seconds left.  

Eric Devendorf makes two foul shots putting Syracuse up 70-67 with 49 seconds left in regulation.

Syracuse immediately called a timeout to line up a last second play. Harris then threw a half court pass that was deflected before Devendorf gathered it along the far sideline. His 3-point shot, although it went in, was ruled just after the final buzzer and overtime was on.

FIRST OVERTIME

The Huskies lead by four on two occasions including 80-76 on a 3-pointer by Robinson with 1:37 left. The Orange then called timeout and their ensuing possession resulted in a 3-pointer by Rautins pulling Syracuse within 80-79 with 1:17 left. Following a Connecticut timeout, Price missed a jumper with 42 seconds left and the Orange rebounded it and called timeout with 36 seconds to go. Rautins missed a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession and Robinson was fouled by Harris. Robinson made one of two foul shots giving the Huskies an 81-79 lead with 14 seconds left.

Rick Jackson of Syracuse looks to shoot around Connecticut’s Gavin Edwards.

Flynn then sped down the court, drove to the basket, and dumped off a pass to a trailing Jackson who dunked it for an 81-81 tie with eight seconds left. Walker’s 3-pointer at the other end of the court missed and it was onto a second overtime. While both teams were still even on the scoreboard, it was Syracuse who was down a man as Ongenaet had fouled out with 4:27 left in the first overtime.

SECOND OVERTIME

The basket must of seemed liked it had a lid on it in the second overtime as each team struggled shooting from the field. The Orange shot just 2-for-9 while Connecticut went 1-for-6. Syracuse took a hit when junior center Arinze Onuaku fouled out with 1:18 left to play leaving them absent of some size and rebounding. Onuaku finished with eight points and nine rebounds.

Paul Harris elevates to shoot over Kemba Walker.

Both teams had chances to win it in this period if they would of converted some close range shots. Harris and Jackson each missed layups in the period for the Orange. Devendorf hit just one of two foul shots with 57 seconds left knotting the score at 87. Adrien had a chance to put the Huskies in front late in the period but missed a two-point tip-in shot with 34 seconds left. Tied 87-87, Connecticut shot 0-4 from the field while Syracuse went 0-1 in the last 57 seconds. The two teams scored just six points apiece on their way to an 87-87 tie after the second extra period which ended with Walker missing a 3-pointer.

THIRD OVERTIME

The Huskies appeared to take control of things in the third five-minute period. However as the case would be on this night, that was premature. Connecticut scored the first six points of the period and had a six-point lead on two occasions. Although Robinson fouled out with 2:59 left to play, the Huskies still seemed to have the upper hand.

Yet the Orange would not flinch. Trailing 97-91 with 1:58 left, Syracuse scratched and clawed its’ way back. A layup and dunk by Harris brought the Orange to within two at 97-95 with 1:05 to play. Syracuse turned to fouling and Connecticut missed pressure foul shots. Adrien missed two foul shots before Price converted just one of two putting the Huskies up 98-95 with 21 seconds left. Flynn brought the ball down the court and found a curling Rautins who nailed a 3-pointer with 11.7 seconds left. It was 98-98.

The drama built when Syracuse tied it 98-98 on a 3-pointer by Andy Rautins late in the third overtime.

However Connecticut would have the last possession of the period. Electing not to use its’ timeout, Price missed a 3-pointer. Adrien got the rebound and missed a jumper in the lane. It was onto overtime number four.

FOURTH OVERTIME

The fourth overtime was much like the second one with each team struggling to score and missing from close range. The Orange also got more thin when Jackson became the third Syracuse player to foul out with 4:24 left in the period. The playing field was leveled when Thabeet fouled out with 3:51 left in the period. That would prove to be significant as it left the Huskies without their shot blocker.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim reacts to the still tied contest at the end of the fourth overtime.

However the Orange shot just 2-for-9 from the field in the period while Connecticut went 3-for-7. Harris struggled big time as he shot 0-for-5 on layups. Three of them came on offensive rebounds of his own missed shots. Two of those came back-to-back over a seven-second stretch in the middle of the period and another one came with 10 seconds left in the period. Price’s jumper with 2:01 left to play put the Huskies in front 104-102. Devendorf’s layup on the ensuing possession accounted for the period’s final points and a 104-104 tie. Each team scored only six points in the period.

FIFTH OVERTIME

By now both teams were feeling the effects of players fouling out not to mention fatigue. Turnovers and missed shots on the first few possessions of this period reflected this. Yet the marathon went on with both teams miraculously showing that they still had something left in the tank. Knowing that Thabeet had fouled out, Flynn became more aggressive in driving to the hoop. Devendorf had also fouled out with 2:01 left in the stanza leaving Syracuse short a scoring option.

Jonny Flynn drives to the basket while trying to convert a reverse layup in the fifth overtime.

With four players having fouled out, Boeheim called on senior walk-on guard Justin Thomas to replace Devendorf. Thomas had played just 21 minutes prior on the season and had scored just four points while appearing in only nine games. The Orange turned to Flynn who scored all of Syracuse’s six points in the period, the first two coming on a driving layup with 1:55 to play. Flynn went on to shoot  4-for-4 on foul shots in the period, the final two coming with 20 seconds left for a 110-110 tie. The period ended with Price missing a 3-pointer followed by Adrien missing a jumper off the offensive rebound as time expired. It was onto a sixth overtime.

SIXTH OVERTIME

Rautins’ 3-pointer on the opening possession of the period gave the Orange their first lead of overtime, marking the first time Syracuse was ahead since 71-69 in the closing seconds of regulation. It also put the Orange in the lead for good as they went on to win the final overtime 17-7 en route to the 10-point victory. Syracuse would push its’ lead to 118-110 before the Huskies scored on a bucket by Price with 2:11 left in the period leaving the Orange with a six-point lead at 118-112.

Walk on guard Justin Thomas cheers with the crowd after Syracuse pulled away for the win near the end of the sixth and final overtime.

Connecticut would get no closer the rest of the way and Price fouled out with 1:16 left. Syracuse shot 9-for-10 from the foul line over the final 2:09 to bring the game to an end. Flynn shot 4-for-4 while Harris went 5-for-6 to seal what was nothing short of an exhilarating victory.

What will be remembered about this game is the high level of performance that was displayed by the players as well as the coaches in a big game environment. The players left it all on the court physically and the coaches left their mark on the game behind the adjustments and strategic moves they made with their minds in respect to players fouling out. The coaching they did in several clutch situations was masterful. Quite simply, this game was nothing short of extraordinary due to the constant intrigue it generated. Archives were invented with this game in mind which is where this one will be preserved forever.

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