Big East Day Three: Syracuse-UCONN Instant Classic
Raphielle Johnson is live at the Big East Tournament all week. Check back in throughout the week for his updates.
The Game: #6 Syracuse 127, #3 UCONN 117 (6 OT)
Of all the great moments that "The World's Most Famous Arena" has seen, those all may have been surpassed by the six-overtime classic between #3 Connecticut and #6 Syracuse. A game that went into extra time only because a desperation 3 by Eric Devendorf left his fingertips just after time expired ended up lasting nearly five hours before the Orange won 127-117. Jonny Flynn, who played sixty-seven of a possible seventy minutes, led the Orange with 34 points and 11 assists.
Big plays in the sixth overtime came from Andy Rautins (20 points) and Paul Harris (29 points, 22 rebounds), when Syracuse was able to take advantage of the Huskies losing both Hasheem Thabeet and Gavin Edwards to fouls. A.J Price (33 points, 10 assists) and Stanley Robinson (28 points, 14 rebounds) led the way for the Huskies, who missed numerous foul shots that could have sealed the game and finished with twenty-seven turnovers. This classic is the third six-overtime game in the history of college basketball and the longest game in the history of the Big East Championship.
The record-holder before tonight: the 1981 final, when a Leo Rautins basket sealed a win over Villanova for Syracuse. The big three that sent this game to a fourth overtime and into the record books was hit by his son. On an editorial note, I cannot believe what I saw tonight. The scene at the Garden was electric, with fans of both teams steadily realizing what they were witnessing. To the victor go the spoils, but other than the Orange moving on to face West Virginia tonight there should be no difference between the two teams.
On the "clock": Syracuse
This one's all about how quickly they can recover in getting ready for the Mountaineers. But in their corner is a loud legion of fans who have a way of turning MSG into "Carrier Dome South" every year so they may very well be fine.
Quote of the Day: Rick Pitino
"I can really go back when I was just an average basketball player myself and signed my letter of intent or my scholarship papers on the Garden floor when Julius (Erving) lost to Marquette by 30 points. It's something to be a New York kid and sign the scholarship papers on the floor of Madison Square Garden. I have so many things, I would bore you to death."
#1 Louisville 73, #8 Providence 55
Led by Earl Clark (24 points) and Samardo Samuels (22 points) the Big East regular season champs came out ready to go and withstood a second-half run from the Friars. Louisville moves on to Friday night's semifinals, where they will take on #4 Villanova. As for the Friars, they get to sit and watch scores from around the nation in hopes of things breaking their way come Selection Sunday. But if it means anything to PC fans, Louisville head coach Rick Pitino is in their corner.
"I've been in this league both when there were few teams and now a lot of teams. Anytime you go over .500 in the ACC, the Big 10, the Big East, you should automatically be in," opined Coach Pitino. The question for Providence is how much weight their ten league wins carry and what the selection committee thinks of their overall body of work. Head coach Keno Davis acknowledged that his team was squarely on the bubble; now the hope is that the bubble doesn't burst.
#4 Villanova 76, #5 Marquette 75
The second quarterfinal of the day went from being a blowout to something you'll see on ESPN Classic, with Marquette storming back from a sixteen-point halftime deficit to take a 75-74 lead with less than a minute to play. But the Wildcats were able to salvage the game with two key plays: a Dante Cunningham block of a Jerel McNeal drive, followed by Reggie Redding finding a cutting Dwayne Anderson for the game-winning layup as time expired. Scottie Reynolds led the Wildcats with 21 points, and Corey Stokes scored twenty off the bench.
Marquette, who was led by Jimmy Butler's nineteen points, shot just 20.8% from the field in falling behind 47-31 at the intermission. But their ability to get to the foul line kept them within sight, and that remained a weapon for the Golden Eagles once shots began to fall. Unfortunately for Marquette, stars McNeal and Wesley Matthews combined to shoot 5-22 from the field. The play of Butler and Maurice Acker spurred the comeback, a development that's key to their chances of making a run in the NCAA Tournament.
#7 West Virgina 74, #2 Pittsburgh 60
Early foul trouble for DeJuan Blair didn't kill the Panthers early, but they were by no means safe in regards to beating the Mountaineers for the third time this season. Alex Ruoff and Da'Sean Butler led the way for WVU, with Devin Ebanks and Truck Bryant leading a solid supporting cast in a great win. Next up is Syracuse in the second semifinal on Friday, and the Orange may be a bit fatigued following their six-overtime win in the final game of the night.
Blair fouled out with fourteen points and five boards, and the Panthers also failed to make a three-pointer. The last time they did that was January 25th, and the opponent that night was West Virginia. Ebanks led all scorers with twenty, with Butler (18) and Ruoff (16) right behind. The tone of this game changed for good in the second half when the Mountaineers went to a 1-3-1 zone, taking advantage of a Pitt offense without the services of Blair. Keep an eye on the Mountaineers; with the experience they have along with youngsters clicking at the right time of the year this could be a dangerous team in the NCAA Tournament.
Teams of the Day: Syracuse and Connecticut. Nothing more needs to be said here.