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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Toughness on Display in UCONN and Syracuse Record Breaking Big East Game

Amazing Toughness and Heart on Display in the Big East Quarterfinal

It is 1:10 am and I was just about to go to sleep - oh 2 hours ago - and I thought I would catch the end of this game. It goes to OT, so I thought good this is exciting, I will be in bed soon. Now it is going into the 6th OT and these kids have played almost an entire second game. Syracuse just hit a three point basket to take their first lead of any of the overtimes. The toughest kid in the game has to be Johnny Flynn who has just completed his 50-some odd minute of play and making free throws. He is 10-10 right now and always seems to find a way to explode to the basket with no legs. How could he have legs? Trying to guard some of the quickest guards for UCONN in a future #1 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament. The walkon for Syracuse - Justin Thomas - has been huge with his rebounding in this game. He just got his first rebound of the season...after watching Harris unable to finish inside all night with the future lottery pick Hasheem Thabeet in the middle, it was odd to see him miss from 3' with no shot blocker in the paint. He just now completed a 3 point play to take an 8 point lead for UCONN.

Well, UCONN just scrapped together to cut the lead to 6. All these things going on and I cant help but be impressed with the toughness and resolve of both teams. Neither of these teams deserve to lose. Devendorff hit a buzzerbeater '3' in regulation, but with one-tenth of a second, the ball was still in his hands, and it sent the game into OT. The crowd and both teams thought the game was over. Most teams aren't tough enough to overcome a setback where something has been taken from them - or so they think - to come out and compete. Syracuse had not taken a lead in the first five overtimes and just took the lead in this 6th overtime. The difference in the game has been the attacking nature of Johnny Flynn who came down with his team down 2 points and instead of settling for the jumpshot, he attacked the rim and was hammered. Then he stepped up to make the 2 free throws to force the 6th overtime.

I just found out that Johnny Flynn in the last two games has played 100 minutes combined in the two games. The coaches are looking tired, the players are looking tired...the referees are wishing they would have just counted the Devendorff shot in regulation. Flynn is a kid that any coach would love as he keeps encouraging his players, making shots, and - maybe most impressive - he WANTS the ball in crunch time. He would not be denied. The game started at 9:36 pm ET and it is now 1:20 as Syracuse has just taken a ten point lead with a minute and a half to go. Game over and the record has been broken for most overtime games in Big East History - regular season or tournament. This has just been mental toughness all game long from both teams as cramps, foul trouble, battling inside with Big East post men, and just diving on the floor from 7 foot lottery picks...just an amazing game.

There can't be a winner or a loser in this game. I think there is just going to be a SURVIVOR. West Virginia and Bob Huggins is waiting in the wings for the winner later on today. The walk on just had a blocked shot - yes, his first of the season. The crowd is rising to its feet to celebrate the great courage on both sides. Only one game in the history of the sport at the major college level has been longer than this marathon. Both teams have laid it on the line and are totally spent in their love of the game. Two hall of fame coaches with NBA players on both teams have just competed in the greatest game I have ever been a witness to...this was an instant classic.

Jim Boeheim said immediately after the game, "We had nothing. Connecticut had their best players. The heart we showed. I have never been prouder of a team. I cant say enough about them. This kid next to you has the biggest heart I have ever seen. I dont know how he could last that long. Where did he get it from? These kids were unbelieveable tonight."

Johnny Flynn, playing 67 minutes this morning, had 34 points 11 assists and 17 pts in the OTs....responded with, ""First and foremost I want to give the glory to God. I told my teammates, we have played this long and this hard, we might as well get the win."

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