Syracuse, UConn ready for Big East tourney rematch

Jim Boeheim certainly hasn’t forgotten that magical game at

Madison Square Garden two years ago. Neither have Kris Joseph, Rick

Jackson and the rest of the Syracuse players who were on the floor

that night.

How could they? How could anybody?

In one of the most exhilarating and exhausting college

basketball games ever played, the Orange outlasted Connecticut in

six overtimes to win a Big East quarterfinal for the ages. The

second-longest Division I game ever played began Thursday night and

bled right into Friday, as the teams combined to take 211 shots and

foul eight guys out before anything was decided.

The scoreboard read 127-117, and it sticks in the mind of

anybody there that night.

On Friday night, the two teams will try to do it again.

The 11th-ranked Orange will meet the No. 21 Huskies in the

semifinals this time, their first matchup in the Big East

tournament since that drama played out.

”We remember the six-overtime game. Absolutely,” Joseph said.

”It’s going to be good.”

The teams are quite different than the two that stood toe-to-toe

for 3 hours, 46 minutes that night. The Orange’s Jonny Flynn and

Paul Harris, who had such an important role in their victory, are

long gone, replaced by kids like Brandon Triche who remember it

just the same.

”I stayed up late to watch it,” said Triche, then a senior at

Jamesville-DeWitt High School in upstate New York. ”I was late for

school the next morning.”

UConn star Kemba Walker, who has become a national player of the

year candidate, was just a freshman in his first Big East

tournament that night. He played 53 minutes and scored only eight

points, but two of them tied the score with 1.1 seconds left in


Walker had two shots to end the game, too. His 3-point attempt

at the buzzer of the first overtime was short, and his heave from

just inside the midcourt line at the end of the second extra

session bounced off the back of the rim.

He’s gotten a little bit better at those game-winning shots

since then.

Walker drained a step-back jumper just before the buzzer

Thursday, lifting the Huskies to a 76-74 win over Pittsburgh in the

most dramatic game of this year’s Big East tournament.

The junior guard has been on a tear ever since arriving in New

York City. He finished with 24 points against the Panthers, on the

heels of a 26-point performance in a first-round win over DePaul

and a 28-point effort against Georgetown in the second round.

He played nearly every minute in all three games, but sure

doesn’t seem to mind.

”Well, you know, like I said before, I’m one of the more

experienced guys on my team and I’ve been through a lot,” Walker

said. ”I’m that guy on this team.”

Boeheim also doesn’t seem to think playing four games in four

days will do much to slow down Walker, whose winning jumper against

Pitt came after a nifty crossover dribble and paralyzing shoulder

roll that got him open just inside the 3-point arc.

”They’re a team that can do that, I really think they can,”

Boeheim said of running through the tournament without any byes.

”Kemba Walker can play eight nights in a row, and they play a lot

of guys, and I don’t see that being a factor.”

Seven of the eight teams left in the Big East tournament

Thursday were ranked in the Top 25, and all of them had already

reached 20 wins.

Along with No. 21 UConn’s win over third-ranked Pittsburgh and

No. 11 Syracuse’s 79-73 victory over 17th-ranked St. John’s, No. 4

Notre Dame rolled to an 89-51 victory over No. 25 Cincinnati in the

most lopsided quarterfinal in tournament history.

The Fighting Irish will face No. 14 Louisville, which ended

Marquette’s run after two wins at Madison Square Garden with an

81-56 victory in the nightcap.

While it won’t have quite the same backdrop as Syracuse-UConn,

there is still plenty at stake for the Fighting Irish and

Cardinals. Notre Dame believes it can earn a No. 1 seed to the NCAA

tournament if it keeps winning, while Louisville has won five of

its last six games.

”I told these guys before the game, I said, ‘Not since 1996 did

I walk into a place and feel as confident as this,”’ Louisville

coach Rick Pitino said. ”The way these guys play, with confidence

and dedication, we know each night we’re going to bring it.”