The Endless Game: Oral history of the Syracuse-Connecticut 6-OT epic
Quick question: If asked who won the 2009 college basketball national championship, would you know the answer off the top of your head?
What about who made the Final Four that year? Probably harder, right?
But what if you were asked about a game that was played in 2009 that went six overtimes? Could you provide details? Would you immediately know that the contest was between UConn and Syracuse at the Big East tournament? Might you faintly remember the names of Jonny Flynn and A.J. Price, not to mention the strained and exhausted faces of Jim Boeheim and Jim Calhoun?
It’s a game which pushed the limits of the human body — seven players played at least 50 minutes; including Flynn’s 67 — the six overtimes were the most of the shot clock era, one short of the Division I record. Not to mention a game that set a Big East record for points scored (244, crushing the previous record of 194 in 1998), with nearly as many players who scored in double-figures (nine) as those who fouled out (eight).
It was a game that tipped off at 9:36 p.m. ET on Thursday, March 12 and ended at 1:22 a.m. on Friday the 13th.
Approaching the five-year anniversary of the six-overtime game, we have decided to relive it, through the eyes of those who were most prominently involved.
We begin hours before the game. Syracuse had played its first Big East tournament game the night before, beating Seton Hall 89-74. UConn was coming off a double-bye into the quarterfinals. In hindsight though, it was really a game between the teams earlier in the year, which set the stage for this one:
Jim Calhoun, UConn head coach: As you got through the ’90s there’s no question that Syracuse-UConn became the rivalry in the conference, because we were always playing for something. We were playing for a No. 1 seed, championships in the Big East.
Jonny Flynn, Syracuse guard: One thing about Connecticut that was so funny about that rivalry, is that I liked to say we disliked them for absolutely no reason. Let’s say practice was done and we would get our shots in after practice. So then one of the assistant coaches, we’d get up our shots up and get ready to leave, and he’d say ‘I bet (UConn’s) A.J. Price is still getting his shots up. I bet they’re in the gym right now.’
Jeff Adrien, UConn forward: For that tournament (the Big East), Syracuse always got ready to play. Even my freshman year (against Gerry McNamara) we had one of those games too. It went overtime. We lost.
Andre LaFleur, UConn assistant coach: We were on a streak of five, six years (without a win). We’d had double-byes, single-byes, Syracuse knocked us out with McNamara (in 2006) when we had one of our better teams. We had great teams that went to New York and did not win a game.
Adrien, UConn: Us seniors had a little bit more pressure. We had never won a game at the Garden during the Big East tournament. We were trying to end that streak.
LaFleur, UConn assistant: Forget Syracuse. We’re not coming here to lose another game. That was our first game, so we had a double-bye. Syracuse had played the night before. It seemed like everything had been set up for us.
Flynn, Syracuse: Not only is it UConn vs. Syracuse, but it’s the Big East tourney, and if you lose, that’s all you have. This could be the second to last game of your season right here.
Jake Presutti, Syracuse walk-on: They beat us by 14 (in the regular season), and honestly it wasn’t even that close. But I remember coach gave us a lashing in the locker room. We were in that tiny visitor’s locker room at Connecticut.
Scoop Jardine, Syracuse guard: I remember that game and sometimes you feel like you just play one team, and UConn had our number.
Calhoun, UConn: Ironically, the win over Syracuse earlier that season set the barometer for us (too) … We played Syracuse the night that (our leading scorer) Jerome Dyson got hurt. … Jerome went down and … was out the rest of the season. On that night when we beat Syracuse, we left thinking that we could beat anybody. We had just won 12, 13 straight (It was 12), so we started putting everyone in their new roles.
LaFleur, UConn assistant: It gave Stanley Robinson a chance to get more involved. Hasheem (Thabeet) was getting better every single game. A.J. (Price) was just starting to get healthy.
A.J. Price, UConn guard: I’ve said it before: I think we would’ve won the thing, not just the Big East tournament. We would’ve won everything if we had Jerome.
Calhoun, UConn: As we got to (the six-overtime) game, now everybody has re-grouped ourselves. We moved Kemba (Walker) into a starting position; we had been starting Jerome and Kemba was great coming off the bench.
The teams had been built and rebuilt, thanks in large part to their matchup in February. Syracuse had won six of seven since the loss, while UConn’s 27-3 record overall had it ranked No. 4 in the country. Now, they were ready to take the court at Madison Square Garden, for a Thursday night quarterfinal.
The two tipped off in the final game of the day with the early stages playing out like the opening rounds of a prize fight: Each team spent the first few minutes feeling the other out, even if it ultimately knew what the other wanted to do.
Kyle Lyddy, UConn student manager: Coach Calhoun always said that we’re going to play Syracuse three or four times a year, so our preparation wasn’t going to change for them. We’ll worry about us, not them. Coach Boeheim knows everything we do. We know everything they do.
LaFleur, UConn assistant: I thought we always had pretty good success against Syracuse as a program. Even in the year they won the national championship with Carmelo Anthony, we beat them twice that year.
Flynn, Syracuse: The game was so long that it could be spotty at times. But I just remember early on, it was tick-for-tack. I was off a little bit, and Eric Devendorf would be on. Then A.J. Price would come down and hit his shot. And Kemba has some crazy move.
Eric Devendorf, Syracuse guard: It was just an up-and-down game, physical, back-and-forth game, typical UConn-Syracuse. We always played zone, so there were long rebounds, and they played a little zone that night too.
Price, UConn: I wish they had played a little more man … but that zone, that’s what they do.
Calhoun, UConn: At that time, Jimmy (Boeheim) had gone to a lot more 2-3 zone. He always played 2-3 zone, but would switch in some man-to-man.
Jim Boeheim, Syracuse head coach: (For us) we tried to limit their inside game and tried to defend them. You have to rebound against them.
Presutti, Syracuse: I think it just came down to (Hasheem) Thabeet. He was just so dominant, and when we played them up there, he dominated the game. We had to figure out a way to attack the rim without him controlling the game — Thabeet finished with 19 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks in 53 minutes before fouling out.
Flynn, Syracuse: I think when the second half came around, Boeheim really put me in a lot of pick-and-rolls. We were running our offense before, but we really started focusing on the offense around me, just getting the ball at the top of the key, using the ball screen to create for others — Flynn finished with a game-high 34 points, including 16 for 16 at the line, and a game-high 11 assists.
Gavin Edwards, UConn forward: I just remember Jonny Flynn killed us all night with the pick-and-roll.
Flynn, Syracuse: There was a time in the game where it was working well, it was opening things up, and everything was spaced out.
Kemba Walker, UConn guard: I had done a pretty good job (guarding) (Flynn) the first time we played (holding Flynn to 5 for 15 from the field and 15 points). But the six-overtime game, it was tough. You could just see it was different.
Flynn, Syracuse: It caused movement for their bigs, so I think that was one key thing that did open the gameplan for us, and allowed us to get a lead.
Boeheim, Syracuse: We were in really good position to win (in regulation), and thought we should win.
Wayne Norman, UConn broadcaster: Syracuse was up 64-57 with four minutes left in regulation.
Price, UConn: I remember we were trying to get back into the game, make sure we did everything we can to extend the game and try to win.
UConn rallied from the seven-point deficit, but to its credit, Syracuse held serve making seven of eight free throws in the final two minutes, including two by Arinze Onuaku, who was a 30-percent free-throw shooter that year. Yet it was the one miss with 27 seconds left that left UConn trailing by two, and left the door open for one final regulation rally.
Walker, UConn: I don’t remember who shot the ball, but they missed, and it got tipped, and — I don’t know. I was just in the right place at the right time. I was able to get a lay-up and I was able to tie up, and that’s what sent us into the first overtime.
Or so everyone thought.
That’s because although the game seemed destined for an extra five minutes, there was still 1.1 seconds left on the clock.
Enough time for a Syracuse miracle … possibly.
Lyddy, UConn student manager: Before we went to overtime, (Calhoun) was on his knees. It wasn’t a ton of X’s and O’s. It’s just, ‘Stop them!’
Devendorf, Syracuse: Kemba had just made that big shot. We came out of the timeout, and Paul (Harris) throws it in.
Edwards, UConn: In situations like that, (coach) would usually put me on the ball so I can try and trap. But this time he wanted me to play a free safety kind of, so if they launched it, I could just hit it, tap it, make sure they didn’t get a shot.
James Breeding, referee: In our mechanics, it’s the person across from the scorer’s table who has the last-second shot. When the timeout was called after Kemba tied the game, John Cahill who was the crew chief, he walked me through: ‘You’ve got the last–second shot, watch out for the long pass.’
Flynn, Syracuse: (Boeheim) was saying we were going to throw it down the court. We were going to run across, ‘Jonny, you try and set a little brush pick on the in-bounder so the in-bounder can get a little chance when he is running the baseline to get a clear shot to throw it down the court.’
Adrien, UConn: Coach is saying ‘no fouls. Get your hands up!’
Norman, UConn broadcaster: That inbounds pass was deflected by one of the UConn players.
Edwards, UConn: I don’t remember who they were trying to throw it to, but sure enough, I tipped it right to Eric Devendorf.
Flynn, Syracuse: I remember standing there and trying to flop to get the foul, but of course they aren’t going to call a foul like that. So I look over and the ball is going to Eric Devendorf and he catches it.
Breeding, referee: I’m running up the court and have just about crossed mid-court where Devendorf takes it … It happened exactly the way he (Cahill) had lined it out.
Edwards, UConn: I’m in a full-out sprint, trying to contest the shot. I don’t think I’ve ever run so fast.
Devendorf, Syracuse: It just deflected to me, and I took a quick shot. I remembered right when it left my hand. Gavin Edwards was right in front of me.
Craig Austrie, UConn guard: I was right under the basket, so I had a good view of the ball going up. As I’m looking at it, I’m thinking ‘Man, this is going in.’ And then …
Flynn, Syracuse: He hits it! I literally can’t believe it.
Breeding, referee: Our mechanics are as follows: Zeroes on the clock is the first thing we go by. And if you can’t see the clock, you go by the LED lights above the backboard, and if you can’t go by that, you go by the horn.
Arinze Onuaku, Syracuse center: You heard the buzzer and the ball was already in the air, so we all thought it was good.
Breeding, referee: Clearly, I thought it was good. I called it that way. You have to call it on the floor.
Presutti, Syracuse: I flew off the bench.
Jardine, Syracuse (who was redshirting that season, and watching at home): I just took off running and left. I left, like jumped in the car and left.
Norman, UConn broadcaster: I do remember Devendorf jumping up on the scorer’s table.
LaFleur, UConn assistant: He jumped on the table, and we were like ‘Oh….s***!’
Flynn, Syracuse: He jumps up on the table, starts doing ‘The Devo.’ And everybody goes down to rush him. It’s pure pandemonium, everyone is going crazy.
Devendorf, Syracuse: Jumping on the table? That was just pure instinct. I didn’t even think about it. We were in the Garden. And we hit the huge shot to win the game.
Calhoun, UConn: When you do this for 40 years and something like 1,400 college basketball games, you kind of get used to — as best you can get used to — the idea of shots going in.
Walker, UConn guard: I couldn’t even believe he got the basketball. But I thought it counted.
Presutti, Syracuse: Instantly, people in our huddle thought that was good.
Devendorf, Syracuse: I could see the clock and I felt like I got it off in time.
Calhoun, UConn: Some (shots) are obvious. That one wasn’t obvious.
Boeheim, Syracuse: It was close, I knew it was really close. You couldn’t really tell by watching it.
Breeding, referee: Immediately I saw John Cahill walking up off the baseline and telling the teams to stay on their benches because we were going to review it.
John Cahill, referee: Our obligation is to go to the monitor and check to see whether it was good or not. If we can’t tell, we’ve got to stay with what the decision on the floor was.
Bob Donato, referee: The coaches know that we’ve got to check it out before we can call the game over.
Flynn, Syracuse: We are walking over to the sidelines because they’re checking it out on the scoreboard, and one of the assistant coaches, Kip Wellman, he’s like ‘Man that didn’t count.’ If you look again on the film you can see one coach with his arms crossed and he’s not celebrating.
Austrie, UConn: Coach was telling us that we had to prepare for the next play.
Calhoun, UConn: It’s almost like when you make big shots yourself and everyone’s excited and you’ve got to calm them down. Well here it’s the opposite; you have to get them up, like ‘Let’s go!’
Cahill, referee: When you’re at the monitor, it always seems that you’re there a lot longer than you think you are.
Austrie, UConn: We’re on the court, we quickly huddled up. And we’re looking over at the family section, because they’ve got the information before the rest of us, because they’re showing replays over and over (on TV).
Cahill, referee: We looked at it once, we looked at it twice, and I’m saying to Bob Donato who is looking at the monitor with me, ‘Bob, this is really close.’
Lyddy, UConn student manager: Some of the fans are looking over at the little monitors that the commentators and media have. I wasn’t certain… I kept kind of quiet. I talked to some of the other managers like, ‘I don’t think that was good, man.’
Cahill, referee: Fortunately technology has gotten so good that we were able to have them do it frame-by-frame and blow it up a little bit. I could just see that the ball was still touching the fingertips of Devendorf as the 0.00 showed up on the clock.
Breeding, referee: John and Bob looked first, and they formulated their conclusion.
Cahill, referee: I said to Bob, ‘Bob that shots no good.’ So he said ‘Let’s look at it again.’ So we looked at it again, and we were both convinced that it wasn’t any good.
Breeding, referee: Then he called me over and said ‘What do you think?’ And after about the third look I said ‘I think it’s still in his hand.’ And he said ‘So do we.’ And he said ‘We’ve got to wipe it off,’ and I said, ‘I agree.’
Cahill, referee: Coach Calhoun was obviously thrilled. Coach Boeheim, when we went to tell him was less than happy. I’ll never forget what he said to me. I’ll clean it up for you, but he said ‘You better be right.’ And I said, ‘I know.’
Breeding, referee: I just remember when John turned around and gave the ‘no good’ signal that it was a mixed reaction because the crowd was evenly split.
Cahill, referee: I didn’t know what would happen when I waved off that shot.
Edwards, UConn: I was real relieved when they waved it off. Some weight was lifted off my shoulders. I thought I was going to be a dead man on campus.
Breeding, referee: As sure as I was that it was good when I called it on the floor, I felt 100-percent sure that we had made the right call based on what I saw on the monitor.
Presutti, Syracuse: Can you imagine if the game would’ve ended that way?
Flynn, Syracuse: If you think about it, if that shot goes in, then the game isn’t … the game. It’s not part of history.
Devendorf, Syracuse: I really don’t worry about it. If that shot was good, there wouldn’t have been six overtimes. I wouldn’t be talking to you right now.
Jardine, Syracuse (watching at home): My dad called me back and said ‘It didn’t count. We’re going to overtime.’ I was already driving to my mom’s house.
In virtually any other circumstance, an overtime game becomes a special event, and a double-overtime game is when people start throwing around words like “legendary” or “unforgettable.”
But March 12, 2009, was no ordinary game, and when polling most of those involved, the first two overtimes became a blur of mini-runs by UConn and comebacks by Syracuse. No distinct memories stand out, except for how each ended. In the first, Syracuse’s Rick Jackson’s dunk with five seconds left forced the second overtime, while Kemba Walker just missed a near half-court shot at the end of the second overtime, which forced a third.
Finally, with 50 minutes of basketball in the books, it seemed like UConn would finally pull away in the third overtime:
Price, UConn: It was the (third) overtime where I scored the first five (Price scored five of the Huskies’ first six in the third overtime for an 93-87 lead) — and I felt like ‘this is the one.’
Austrie, UConn: That was the point where we thought we had it.
Adrien, UConn: We took the lead in each of those overtimes. It was our game to win, we were up four, then six. We were just trying to seal the deal.
Walker, UConn: I feel like every time we got close to winning the game, they would make a run.
Calhoun, UConn: We stole the ball, we were hustling, we were doing all good things, but we just couldn’t finish it.
Calhoun’s words proved prophetic. Back-to-back buckets from Syracuse’s Harris cut UConn’s lead to two. Price went to the line with 21 seconds left and a chance to put the game away. Make two, and it’s a two-possession game.
But he made one leaving UConn with a three-point lead. It gave Andy Rautins a chance to be a hero.
Walker, UConn: I swear, Andy Rautins made a big shot in like, every overtime.
Jardine, Syracuse: It was a play I knew we ran. And I knew coach was going to call the play.
Boeheim, Syracuse: I remember Andy hitting shots (all night), but I remember the one where there were 10 seconds left and he hit a “3” with a hand right in his face.
Leo Rautins, former Syracuse forward, father of Andy Rautins: It’s like a 25-footer with two guys in his face. I don’t care who made it. It’s like ‘Are you s—–in’ me?’
Boeheim, Syracuse: That was the shot that had to be made and it was a hard shot. The defender was right there.
Leo Rautins: I don’t say this because it’s Andy or it’s my son, but … if you go back and watch that shot, it’s ridiculous.
Jardine, Syracuse: We knew he could shoot. Coach knew he could shoot. But the country didn’t know he could shoot like that.
Boeheim, Syracuse: That was an unbelievable shot. Obviously down three with 10 seconds to go if he doesn’t make it, the game is over.
Calhoun, UConn: Not any overtime specifically, but it just felt like there were all these little moments. It was just a feeling like, you can’t keep passing up these great opportunities.
After Rautins tied it with his 3, UConn missed two shots and the game was headed to a fourth overtime, unchartered territory for players, coaches and fans alike. At this point, the game was just starting to get ‘historical.’
Austrie, UConn: Everyone has played in an overtime game before, maybe double-overtime. Triple-overtime is when it starts to get a little weird. (After that) you start to think ‘What the heck is going on?’
Onuaku, Syracuse: I remember people at the Garden taking their shirts off. It was getting hot in there. It was crazy.
Price, UConn: Funny story I tell people. About the fourth overtime both teams come out from the bench and we go to the scorer’s table and we’re kind of just wiping our hands, wiping our feet on the sticky tape. And me and Johnny Flynn just look at each other smiling, like ‘somebody’s got to win this game.’
Flynn, Syracuse: I remember coming out to the circle, I looked at A.J. (Price) and was like, ‘Man, we need this game more than y’all do. Just let us win this game.’ He just laughed at me and was like, ‘Alright dude.’
Price, UConn: At that point, it was probably one-something (in the morning) and the winner had to play that (next) night. That’s when it hit me, like ‘Nobody is going to win this game, we might be playing all night.’ That’s what it felt like.
Presutti, Syracuse: There was a point where it just felt like a fairy tale almost. The thing wouldn’t end, and guys made play after play after play.
Devendorf, Syracuse: I fouled out in the fourth overtime. I was just standing there, enjoying the game like everyone else.
Like all three of the overtimes before it, overtime No. 4 ended with a flurry as Harris had two chances at the rim and couldn’t finish. Before anyone could blink, the horn sounded again.
Calhoun, UConn: The end of games you always kind of remember those, but when you have seven game-endings … that many game-endings, that many swings; I can still see it.
Breeding, referee: I look at the clock and I see we’re about to go to overtime number five, and I remember walking down to the corner, to my spot and one of the UConn fans said, ‘Ref, we’re in unchartered territory, we’re not even going to yell at you anymore. The game is too good.’ And they had been yelling at me all game.
Indeed the game had been good, no great, but it hadn’t necessarily been even. Despite playing 60 full minutes, and the equivalent of an extra half of a game, incredibly, Syracuse had never led in any of the four overtimes.
While it wouldn’t take a lead in overtime No. 5, the tide began to shift their way.
Presutti, Syracuse: It was the fifth overtime when I felt like ‘Wow, this is really swinging in our favor.’
LaFleur, UConn assistant: The thing I remember most vividly was the foul situation: It came down to who was on the court at the end. It was really who was still standing.
Presutti, Syracuse: You need to look at guys like (reserves) Kris Joseph, Justin Thomas and Kristof (Ongenaet) and how they were able keep us afloat. I felt like we had a big-time advantage as we got deeper into our bench.
LaFleur, UConn assistant: It was like chess: Who had the most power pieces left? Not to downgrade our guys, but if you look at the chessboard at the end of the game, you would kind of see it the way that it was. They just had more power pieces on the court than we did.
Calhoun, UConn: You have to use guys that haven’t played very much, Gavin Edwards, Scottie Haralson, Donnell Beverly.
Scottie Haralson, UConn guard: I knew my chance would be coming as the game went on. I just wanted to be aggressive (when I got in the game).
Calhoun, UConn: Kids who hadn’t been put under that bright light and they shined.
Haralson, UConn: I remember I hit the shot and we went up two (110-108 with 42 seconds left in the fifth overtime).
Flynn, Syracuse: As the overtimes go on you’re like man, ‘these guys are standing here through the onslaught.’
Haralson, UConn: Then Jonny Flynn came down, and split the ball-screen and I was the one that fouled him — Flynn’s two free throws tied it at 110 with 20 seconds left in overtime No. 5.
Boeheim, Syracuse: That was one of the big components of the game; Jonny Flynn was able to get to the basket, get to the foul line.
Thabeet, UConn: All I could do was sit there and watch (Syracuse’s plan to attack Thabeet had worked as he fouled out in the fourth overtime.)
Calhoun, UConn: Jimmy (Boeheim) said he wanted to get Hash (Thabeet) out of the game. Well, he got Hash out of the game. They got him into foul trouble — which is funny for someone who played 53 minutes — and I probably had to use him a little bit less than I wanted to.
Haralson, UConn: He (Flynn) hit the two free throws.
Boeheim, Syracuse: He (Flynn) made so many free throws that had to be made. He made eight or so in overtime, where each one had to be made. If he hit 14 out of 16, we’d have lost.
Haralson, UConn: (At the end of the fifth overtime) we had one more chance.
Norman, UConn broadcaster: The one that for some reason I remember is that Adrien miss (a short jumper) at the end of the fifth overtime.
Adrien, UConn: I remember I had the game-winner.
Norman, UConn broadcaster: That’s a shot he normally makes.
Walker, UConn: I fell to the floor (after that shot). I was tired, man.
With history in the books many times over, and immortality achieved somewhere along the way, the teams headed to a sixth overtime. And finally, the weight of foul trouble became too much for UConn. Especially when its most important player was forced out of the game.
Walker, UConn: When A.J. (Price) went out with fouls, that’s when I knew it was going to be tough.
LaFleur, UConn assistant: At the end of the game, they had Jonny Flynn and Paul Harris, two of their best players still on the court. It wasn’t an X’s and O’s, it wasn’t a skill thing.
Onuaku, Syracuse: I think Jonny and Paul are the only ones who finished the game.
LaFleur, UConn assistant: One of the most physically imposing players was Paul Harris, he was a grown man. Well, Paul Harris wasn’t tired.
Presutti, Syracuse: Paul deserves a lot of credit. He was banging all game long against those guys and had 22 rebounds. Regardless of how many minutes you play, 22 rebounds? He was fantastic.
Devendorf, Syracuse: We made a couple big shots early in that last overtime, then started making our foul shots to extend the lead.
Boeheim, Syracuse: It wasn’t until the sixth (overtime) when we got the lead. That was the first time we had gotten the lead in all six overtimes. — Rautins’ 3 to open the final overtime gave Syracuse a 113-110 advantage.
Lyddy, UConn student manager: I think coach Calhoun called one final timeout and said, ‘Guys, give me everything you’ve got here.’
Jardine, Syracuse: I knew we had it. UConn’s faces, it was like they were done. You could sense it, even watching it on TV.
Devendorf, Syracuse: It wasn’t until the last two minutes or so that I felt like we had it.
Onuaku, Syracuse: We never felt comfortable until the buzzer went off.
Norman, UConn broadcaster: One thing that I did notice: When the game was over, it ended on Friday the 13th. It began on a Thursday, but it ended on Friday the 13th.
When the final buzzer did go off, it showed a scoreboard unlike any the Big East tournament — or college basketball as a whole, really — had seen before: Syracuse 127, UConn 117, six overtimes.
It went down as both the longest and highest-scoring game in Big East tournament history. Yet at the time, neither side had time to appreciate being a part of history. One side was headed home with a loss. The other had a few fleeting minutes, before it had to get ready for the next game, and maybe two.
Devendorf, Syracuse: Oh man, it was crazy. I got back to the locker room; I must’ve had 30 texts.
Flynn, Syracuse: I remember the game ended at like 1 or 2 a.m.
Devendorf, Syracuse: Me and Arinze went to the café down the street, and we were the only people in there. But everyone who was working knew about the game and were talking to us about it.
Leo Rautins (Andy Rautins’ father): I caught Andy that night. I don’t think I talked to him until like three in the morning, and they were all eating, still wired.
Flynn, Syracuse: Paul Harris was my roommate and we didn’t go to sleep until 8 a.m. We had to play at 7 or 8 (p.m.) the next day.
Calhoun, UConn: Jimmy (Boeheim) and I have talked, and I told him ‘I know exactly how you felt. I would’ve felt elated and would’ve taken an hour or so to relish the moment. And then the next hour? I’d look at the scouting report.
Onuaku, Syracuse: We were excited, but it’s like ‘Oh, we’ve got to play tomorrow.’
Flynn, Syracuse: That was the thing. It was OK, the game is over, you complete six overtimes … but the season’s not over. This is not the championship game. (You’re only now) in the semifinal you have to win to even get to the championship game of your conference.
Devendorf, Syracuse: The thing is, we had to get ready to play West Virginia the next night.
Flynn, Syracuse: It was a great game, not to take anything away from it, but we’ve got to snap our minds out of it.
Devendorf, Syracuse: We got up, ate breakfast, watched some film, then just got ready to play again.
Boeheim, Syracuse: I knew we would be tired, I thought it would be very difficult to come back from that night.
Flynn, Syracuse: I remember we left to go to the game (the next night) two hours ahead of time and on the way to the game, downtown Manhattan, it might take you 30 minutes to go two blocks. I’m on the bus, and I’m … asleep. I had to get woken up to get off the bus to go into the gym.
Jardine, Syracuse: We made it to overtime the next night (and beat West Virginia 74-69) after the six overtime game.
Flynn, Syracuse: That was a game where the rest of the team really picked it up and played really well. We got through that one.
Devendorf, Syracuse: Even though we won, we had to play Louisville (in the Big East championship game), who had Terrence Williams, Earl Clark. It was just crazy.
Boeheim, Syracuse: We beat a good West Virginia team — we had to go to overtime again — we used a lot of gas up.
Leo Rautins (Andy Rautins’s father): What people forget is that they had other overtime games too. By the time they played Louisville it was the equivalent of playing five or six games.
Boeheim, Syracuse: We played four games but it was pretty close to five games. Seven overtimes is 35 extra minutes. Might as well just say we played five games in four nights.
Presutti, Syracuse: Not to take anything away from them (Louisville), but you wonder what would have been if we weren’t so tired.
Syracuse lost to Louisville in the Big East title game 76-66. Though the Cardinals hoisted the championship trophy, perspective was not lost on Boeheim.
Presutti, Syracuse: Coach Boeheim said it (after the six-overtime game), and reiterated it on Saturday night that he had never been prouder of a group of guys than he was of us.
For UConn the following hours and days weren’t nearly as magical …
Calhoun, UConn: I shook Jim’s hand and we just looked at each. It hurt. The initial emotion is hurt.
Boeheim, Syracuse: I think Jim (Calhoun) was probably disappointed because they had a lead in those overtimes. That’s what would disappoint me as a coach. So I know he was extremely disappointed that he didn’t win in a couple of those overtimes.
Calhoun, UConn: The immediate perspective was disappointment. I certainly wasn’t disappointed in the kids, but I was disappointed for them. You only have a chance to look at the facts, so you look at the final result.
LaFleur, UConn assistant: At the end of it, I remember walking to the locker room, I had probably 100 text messages and emails on my phone from people who had stayed up all night, and they were like ‘Wow, that was a great game, keep your head up.’”
All we could think is, ‘Well, we f*****’ lost.’
Calhoun, UConn: I’m a coach, I’m not a cheerleader, I’m not a fan. I’m not getting misty. I’m trying to figure out ways for us to get it done.
LaFleur, UConn assistant: We were trying to get out of New York as soon as possible. I think if coach Calhoun could’ve have had an immediate reaction, I think that’s what he would’ve done. If it had been any earlier, I think we would’ve packed our bags and left (that night).
Adrien, UConn: It was just complete shock. Let’s get back to school.
Calhoun, UConn: By the time they got to that locker room, unless the guys aren’t telling you the truth, that’s devastating.
Haralson, UConn: We were definitely not happy; historic game or not, we were just mad at that moment. We wanted that win.
Austrie, UConn: You don’t grasp it’s a six- overtime until later. To us it was a loss, just another loss.
Calhoun, UConn: I think I told them to get their heads up, we just told them we were involved with something really special — I don’t know if I used the word ‘historical’ — but special.
Calhoun, UConn: In life I talk about ‘Everyday Wins.’ That was an ‘Everyday Win.’ We put a lot into it, but weren’t rewarded with a win. In life that happens many times, that’s what they call building blocks.
Price, UConn: We got back to the hotel around three, but I couldn’t fall asleep until like six.
LaFleur, UConn assistant: (With) the loss, the bus is quiet. There is no talking, no joking, there’s no loud music, headphones on. There may be very little … eating. The guys in that program know, if you don’t win, there’s nothing to laugh and joke about.
Adrien, UConn: It was miserable.
LaFleur, UConn assistant: The thing I explain to everybody is that it was really another loss. At that time, there was no fanfare, it was that we lost again in our first game in New York City, we were going home.
Only after UConn got on the bus and back to campus were the players able to regroup.
Calhoun, UConn: The next day we were able to put it in much better perspective. You start to look back and you see this, you see that. I started doing that much more with my assistants. I turned to my assistants and said ‘God damn we had so many mistakes … but we kept fighting.’
LaFleur, UConn assistant: Players pretty much are oblivious. For them it was a game. For us as coaches, there were a lot of things at stake after that loss. There were our NCAA tournament-seed implications. Where would that put us? Would we get a good enough seed to make a run at the Final Four?
Calhoun, UConn: It was my job over the next 48-72 hours to put it in perspective and explain how it builds a better basketball team.
Walker, UConn: It was more positive than anything. I think he told it straight, like, we fought until the end. And we had to get ready for the NCAA tournament.
Price, UConn: He said … we were going to focus on the NCAA tournament. We had done everything we needed to do in terms of showing what we’re capable of (in the six-overtime loss).
Adrien, UConn: It was just one of things that we knew if we played that hard the next six nights, five nights we’d get to a Final Four.
And that’s exactly what the Huskies did.
Fueled by the loss to the Orange, UConn made it to that year’s Final Four in Detroit. Syracuse’s run wasn’t quite as deep, but just as meaningful.
Calhoun, UConn: Quite frankly, as we got to the NCAA tournament, that game helped our team. That team got us so much better. We went on to beat some great teams in the tournament.
Adrien, UConn: After that (game) we were hungry, we just weren’t gonna let that happen again.
Haralson, UConn: Everything happens for a reason. We lost that game, but it re-energized and changed our focus a little bit.
Calhoun, UConn: In retrospect we got a few days’ rest, went onto the NCAA tournament and won our first four games in a row.
Walker, UConn: It helped us. It just gave us a wake-up call of course. It showed us how we should play.
LaFleur, UConn assistant: You can appreciate it a little bit more now because you know how it played out. You know we went to the Final Four.
Calhoun, UConn: It was a great season for us, an incredible season for us that could’ve even been more incredible for us. We go to the Final Four against Michigan State (MSU won 82-73). That team had a great, great season, and it would go down as one of the best I’ve ever coached. It was terrific. It had all the answers when we had Jerome (Dyson).
Presutti, Syracuse: For us, (the Big East tournament) helped. All of a sudden we’re a No. 3 seed, we’re in Miami. It was a nice opportunity for us.
Jardine, Syracuse: We ended up going to the Sweet 16 that year (losing to No. 2 seed Oklahoma).
Presutti, Syracuse: Coach even reiterated after the Oklahoma game how special the season was because of the six-overtime game.
Jardine, Syracuse: We had been up and down, we had plenty of talent but couldn’t pull it out. It’s like we had two different personalities. But at Madison Square Garden, all those games it showed we could win games together.
It also showed the strength of a rivalry between great schools. While most might not have been able to appreciate they were part of history at the exact moment the buzzer sounded, that appreciation did come in time:
Devendorf, Syracuse: We knew it right away. We got back to the hotel and everyone just wants to talk to us about it. The next day we heard about, a few days later it was still on TV.
Adrien, UConn: I think (assistant) coach George Blaney said something that day, ‘You guys were a part of history.’
Presutti, Syracuse: In years since, when people find out I went to Syracuse, they always ask me ‘Did you play in the six-overtime game.’ I say no, but that’s when it hits me, ‘Wow, everyone has a story.’ That’s kind of what hit me, that it was such a special thing to be a part of.
Calhoun, UConn: That was a game that I obviously remember. But it’s amazing how many stories people have written me, texted me, emailed just about that game. It’s one of those ‘Where were you?’ deals.
Jardine, Syracuse: There was a commercial that came out a few years later. I remember Kris Joseph who was my teammate that year was actually in the commercial hugging Jonny. And I’m like, ‘Look at you in the commercial. You played six minutes!’
Bill Raftery, then-ESPN, now FOX Sports 1 broadcaster: I got this note from Mike Tranghese late in the last overtime. He was going out as commissioner and gave us a note, ‘This is my final gift to my favorite three-some’ to me, Jay (Bilas) and Sean (McDonough). It’s one of the few pieces of memorabilia I have.
Lyddy, UConn student manager: I think the Big East put out their website SixOvertimes.com (that’s when I knew we were part of history). There’s no ThreeOvertimes.com, there’s no FourOvertimes.com.
Austrie, UConn: Once you mention to six overtimes, you think UConn and Syracuse.
Devendorf, Syracuse: I probably didn’t fully appreciate it until I left Syracuse. What’s so cool is that whenever UConn and Syracuse played after that, not even in the Big East tournament, but just in general, they would always show highlights of it. That’s when I realized what a big deal it was.
Jardine, Syracuse: The Baylor women’s game (in December 2013 against Kentucky, which went four overtimes) was similar. I didn’t want it to go any further. Like any game you watch, you don’t want the game to go past six (overtimes). We want to keep the record.
Rautins (Andy Rautins’s father): At Madison Square Garden they’ve set up displays of the greatest games in Garden history, and they actually called me and put Andy’s uniform on display from that game. I told Andy when I saw that, ‘You’re memorialized man. You’re going to be able to bring your kids here some day and look at this.’
Calhoun, UConn: There’s nothing in my athletic life, nothing I’ve seen beyond the Final Four that can take the place of the Big East tournament. I was fortunate enough to be involved in many special games. This game, within that tournament was very, very special.
Jardine, Syracuse: That game itself, not only was it six overtimes, but to be played at the Garden, when everyone is watching?
Boeheim, Syracuse: Had it been you know, Syracuse-Marquette or something, it wouldn’t have been the same.
Calhoun, UConn: There’s nothing like Syracuse-Connecticut going to the Garden. The arena had something to do with it. The proximity with the fans had something to do with. … It was nationally televised. It was between the two best programs in the last 20 years in the Big East.
And then it develops into that game? I don’t think it’s a coincidence.
Boeheim, Syracuse: The six-overtime game is the best game I’ve ever been part of. People say, ‘Well, it’s not an NCAA tournament game’ but I don’t look at it like that. I just look at it as a game.
Raftery, broadcaster: I don’t even know even know if we went out, which is very unusual for me in New York. In fact one of the comments I’ve had is that it’s the latest I’ve ever come home from New York without my wife being mad at me.
Flynn, Syracuse: Just to know that every March, that this is the game everyone is talking about, that’s pretty cool.