Wow! What a game. If you could not stay up to 1:40 am EDT last evening, you missed one of the greatest games in basketball history. Six overtimes.
The final score was 127-117 Syracuse over Connecticut. But the Orange never led in any of the previous five overtime periods. Syracuse showed early in the season in the Florida and Kansas games that they would not fold under pressure, and they have kept that true to form this entire season. What a welcome change from the past few years.
I have been harsh on Jonny Flynn's playmaking this season, and I believe rightfully so. But in the last few games, I have seen Flynn develop from being a great player to being a great point guard. He is now dishing the ball off to his teammates, allowing them to take the better shots, and keeping everyone involved. He is elevating his play, and that is bringing the team with him.
So many highlights from last night. Arinze Onuaku... you know all Orange fans were burying their faces in their hands when he went to the line with 30 seconds to go in regulation and he had to make two. And the big guy came through with two free throws.
Devendorf's last second shot for the win... nothing but net. I think the officials made the correct call in taking away the basket due to time expiring... but it could not have possibly been any closer. I do have an objection with the officials not calling charging on Thabeet for plowing over Jonny Flynn on the pick on the inbounds (though I can understand them not wanting to make that call at the end of the game).
Andy Rautins hitting a clutch 3 to tie the game with 12 seconds to go in the 3rd overtime period. It must be something in the Rautin gene pool that allows heroics in third period overtimes (reference: Leo's tip in winning basket in the 1981 Villanova triple overtime win). And Andy's three point shot to start the 6th overtime period basically ended the game.
Flynn's 34 points and 11 assists are strong numbers, but 67 minutes and 16-16 from the free throw line are the numbers that really jump out.
Paul Harris... what an up and down night for Paul. 56 minutes, 29 points, 13-14 from the free throw line. Here's the huge stat: 22 rebounds. Some of those 22 rebounds were his own missed shots (of which he had many at point blank in overtime), but still a great effort from Harris.
For a few minutes of overtime, Syracuse had to play against UConn and Thabeet without any center or power forward on the team. Onuaku, Onganaet and Jackson had all fouled out. I was concerned that was the end for the Orange, but they still hung in there.
You've got to wonder what was going through Justin Thomas's mind when Devendorf fouled out and Thomas, a walk-on, had to go onto the court. He played 18 minutes all season, plus three more against Seton Hall Wednesday night. He ended up playing 7 minutes, every one of them crucial, against the #4 team in the country, last night. I'm guessing Jake Presutti was praying that neither Rautins or Harris would pick up their next foul, their fifth, or he would have been on the court too.
Who knows what the Orange will be able to do tonight. They are young men, but the emotional drain has got to be significant. The big men actually should not be too physically tired. Jackson played only 29 minutes, Onganaet 28 minutes, and Onuaku 28 minutes. But the guards will definitely be the ones to watch.
I think the win last night easily moves the Orange into a #4 seed in the NCAA tournament, regardless of how they do this evening. We'll see.