Syracuse won’t have much time to celebrate one of the most remarkable wins in its history.
Less than 20 hours after prevailing in the second-longest Division I game ever played, the 18th-ranked Orange continue their quest for a Big East tournament title in a Friday night semifinal against a better-rested West Virginia team coming off an upset of its own.
In the last Big East tournament quarterfinal - which began Thursday night and didn’t end until early Friday morning - Syracuse (25-8) outlasted No. 3 Connecticut 127-117 in an incredible six overtimes.
Andy Rautins hit a 3-pointer 10 seconds into the final overtime, giving the Orange - who last won this tournament in 2006 - their first lead since regulation.
“I have never been prouder of a team than I am tonight,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “They just kept fighting, … hanging in there and toughing it out and fighting.”
The game finished one overtime short of the record set in Cincinnati’s 75-73 victory over Bradley in seven overtimes Dec. 21, 1981.
“I can’t even feel my legs right now,” said Syracuse sophomore Jonny Flynn, who had 34 points and 11 assists while playing 67 of the game’s 70 minutes, the most of any player. “It was a tough game, we battled it out, but we have to turn it around - today - and face a tough team in West Virginia.”
Much earlier in the evening, West Virginia (22-10) beat No. 2 Pittsburgh 74-60. So, instead of a much-anticipated third meeting between two teams seeking top seeds in the NCAA tournament, one of Friday’s semifinals will feature sixth-seeded Syracuse and the seventh-seeded Mountaineers.
The Orange have beaten West Virginia in nine of the last 10 meetings, including a 74-61 win Feb. 4 at the Carrier Dome in the only matchup this regular season.
Eric Devendorf had 22 points against the Mountaineers in that contest, and finished with 22 again Thursday. He also had a chance to end the game in regulation.
After UConn tied the game at 71 with 1.1 seconds left, Paul Harris, who finished with 29 points and 22 rebounds, threw the inbounds pass past midcourt. The ball was deflected by Connecticut’s Gavin Edwards into the hands of Devendorf, who let a 3-point attempt go just as the red lights around the backboard went off.
The play was reviewed and it was determined Devendorf did not get the shot off in time.
While neither the Orange nor Mountaineers were expected to reach the semifinals, they enter as two of the league’s hottest teams.
Syracuse has won six straight, while West Virginia has won four of five - its lone loss in that span was a 62-59 setback to then-No. 6 Louisville last Saturday.
The Mountaineers’ 1-3-1 zone defense - first used in Wednesday’s 74-62 second-round victory over Notre Dame - frustrated Pitt into 13 turnovers. West Virginia also limited the Panthers to 0-of-8 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc.
“I think we were the aggressor. I think that’s big,” said Mountaineers senior guard Alex Ruoff, who finished with 18 points.
Devin Ebanks had a career-high 20 points Thursday after finishing with seven and a career-best 18 rebounds against the Irish. The 6-foot-9 freshman had nine points against Syracuse earlier this season.
Da’Sean Butler, who is averaging a team-high 17.2 points, scored 23 versus the Orange in February.
The Mountaineers improved to 20-0 when scoring at least 68 points. They are 3-10 when scoring 67 or fewer.
West Virginia’s offense struggled against Syracuse earlier this season, shooting 35.8 percent from the field including 7 of 27 from beyond the 3-point arc.
The winner of the game plays either fifth-ranked Louisville or 10th-ranked Villanova in Saturday’s championship.
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