|2008-2009 Syracuse Orange|
|NCAA Sweet Sixteen||Schedule Results|
Coach: Jim Boeheim
The Orange were returning four starters from the previous season, plus had the healthy return of veterans Eric Devendorf and Andy Rautins. The feeling around campus was that the Orange could have a very good season, despite playing in the Big East Conference which was being touted as the toughest conference ever for the season.
Jonny Flynn would return at the point, but with Devendorf, Rautins and Scoop Jardine around, figured he would not have to log as many minutes as the previous season. Kris Onganaet and Paul Harris were back to handle the forward positions, and veteran Arinze Onuaku was at the center. Syracuse was counting on sophomore Rick Jackson to provide some help up front, along with freshmen Kris Joseph and Mookie Jones.
Syracuse would lose Jardine before the season began, as a result of a stress fracture he had from the previous season, and despite the Orange fans thoughts, the Orange started unranked.
The Orange would start out the season strong. The would face nationally ranked Florida and Kansas in the CBE Tournament. Syracuse would play close with Florida, but hold on to win the game 89-83. The next night they would play Kansas. The Jayhawks led by three as time was expiring when Flynn would hit a three point basket to tie the game with eight seconds remaining, sending the game into overtime. Syracuse would outscore Kansas 17-9 in the overtime period to win the CBE Championship.
The Orange would return home, and beat Virginia 73-70, and eventually get their record up to 9-0. The Orange would then play unheralded Cleveland State, in a game much close than Syracuse expected. Cleveland State led 69-64 with 27 seconds left in the game, when Flynn would hit a three point shot to bring the score within two points. Syracuse would steal the ball on the next possession, and Onuaku would put back a missed Rautins three point shot with three seconds to go to tie the game up. Cleveland State's Cedric Jackson would get the ball and take a shot from sixty feet, hitting a game winning three point shot, to give them a 72-69 win, and hand Syracuse its first loss of the season.
News for Syracuse would get worse as Devendorf was in an altercation with a female student. He was eventually given a two game suspension by the university, forcing him to miss the game against highly rated Memphis and then Coppin State. Fortunately the Orange would have another big night from Flynn (24 points), a big night from Jackson, and a strong team effort in beating Memphis. Against Coppin State, Rautins picked up the slack with a hot shooting night hitting nine three point shots, for 29 points, along with six assists in a relatively easy win over Coppin State.
The Orange were getting national attention and moving up in the polls. Rautins would continue his hot shooting and lead the Orange in scoring in their first three Big East games. Devendorf had returned to the team, and the Orange were playing very well. The would run their record up to 16-1, 4-0 in the Big East, and were ranked #9 in the country when they went down to Georgetown. This began a stretch where the Orangemen were going to play eight of their next ten games against top twenty ranked teams. The stretch did not start out well as the Hoyas won easily 88-74.
Syracuse would rebound from that loss with an impressive win over ranked Notre Dame 93-74, behind a big game by Onuaku. The Orange would then lose five of their next six, despite a big 35 point effort from Jonny Flynn against Providence. The Orange were in a big need of a win to stop the slide when Georgetown came to down. Syracuse outplayed Georgetown for the first 36 minutes of the game, leading easily 71-60. However, like all great Orange/Hoya games, the Hoyas made the game interesting by fighting back, and tying the game up at 83-83 with thirteen seconds to go. Syracuse had a chance at the last shot, but Flynn never got a shot off as the ball was stolen by DaJuan Summers, and the game would go into overtime. Syracuse showed they were still the masters of overtime for this season, as they won 98-94 holding on down the stretch.
Syracuse played Villanova next, and the Wildcats had a big lead early in the game. Syracuse kept clawing back into the game and Villanova would re-open their lead. The Wildcats led 88-81 with 32 seconds to go when Devendorf hit a three point basket to make it a four point game. Syracuse would steal the ball, and Devendorf would make a layup with 16 seconds left to make the score 88-86. The Orange quickly fouled Reggie Redding, who made his first free throw, but missed his second giving the Orange a chance to tie the game. The Orange would get four three point shot attempts off in the last ten seconds of the game, two by Flynn, one by Devendorf, and one by Harris, but none would fall, as Villanova held on to win. Syracuse had come close to a great comeback, but fell just short.
Despite the loss, the Orange were starting to play some great basketball. They would win their next three Big East games very easily by margins of 29, 24, and 30 points, before heading to Marquette to play the nationally ranked Eagles to close out the regular season. This game would also go into overtime, behind the hot shooting of Flynn and Rautins who combined for 44 points. The Orange would again control the overtime period, and win 86-79. However, their best overtime game of the season was yet to come.
Syracuse would face Seton Hall in the first round of the Big East tournament, and had a relatively easy win behind a great game by Flynn, and an tremendous overall team effort. The Orange would have 30 assists as a team, setting the Big East tournament record for assists in a game.
Syracuse faced Connecticut in the next round of the tournament, with the Huskies ranked #4 in the country. The game was closely played throughout, and UConn tied up the game with 1.1 seconds remaining. Syracuse inbounded the ball and Devendorf hit a three point shot as time expired, to give the Orange a victory in overtime! However, television replays showed that the ball was still on Devo's fingertips as the clock hit 0.0 seconds, and the basket was waived off. So the game would go into overtime.
The game would turn out to be one of the hardest fought games in NCAA basketball history, lasting six overtime periods (the longest game ever was seven periods). There were plenty of heroics on both sides of the ball, and the Orange never led during any of the first five overtime periods. The game became one of attrition, as players started fouling out. Syracuse's Justin Thomas, a senior walk-on, had to play the last seven minutes of the overtime, when Devendorf fouled out. In the sixth overtime, the Orange jumped to an early lead, and the Huskies never caught up. At around 1:30 am EST, the Orange ended up beating the Huskies 127-117. Jonny Flynn played 67 of the 70 minutes in the game, leading a parade of ten players who played forty or more minutes.
Syracuse would face West Virginia in the Big East semi-finals. The game would again go down to the wire, and would go into overtime when WVU's Devin Ewbanks sank two free throws with four seconds left to tie up the game. Syracuse would lead most of the overtime period, and despite some last second efforts by the Mountaineers, the Orange were able to hold on an win 73-69.
Syracuse would face Louisville in the finals. At this point the Orange had played 155 minutes of basketball in the tournament, compared to only 80 minutes for Louisville (who benefited from an extra bye as a result of being the leagues #1 seed). Most of the first half was close until the Orange finished strong pulling out to an eight point lead at halftime, 38-30. Everyone suspected fatigue would play a factor for Syracuse, particularly against Louisville's full court press, but the question was would the Orange be able to fight through it. The answer came fairly early in the second half. The Cardinals would go on a 21-5 spurt to start the second half, and Syracuse found itself down 51-43 after only six minutes of play. The Orange would cut the lead down to seven minutes, and it remained about that level until the last minute of the game. The Cardinals would win the Big East Tournament. Jonny Flynn, because of his heroic Big East efforts, was named the Tournaments MVP, despite being on the losing team.
The Big East tournament run paid off for Syracuse as they received a #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Orangemen easily beat Stephen F. Austin in the first round, and surprisingly had very little trouble with Arizona State in the second round.
The Orange were facing #2 seed Oklahoma and All-American Blake Griffin in the Sweet Sixteen. The season quickly came to a close for the Orange at that point, with Griffin appearing to be unstoppable on his way to 30 points and 14 rebounds, and the Orange being outplayed by most of the Sooners. Flynn had a solid game with 22 points, but both Devendorf and Rautins had off-shooting nights in the first half, and the Orange big men were not particularly strong on the rebounds.
Nevertheless, the Orange had a great season full of memories for the Orange faithful, with a return to the NCAA tournament, a wild and fun run in the Big East Tournament, and a 5-0 record in overtime. The team had a knack for winning the close games, and played tough throughout. Hopes for the next season were high as Onganaet was the only senior among the regulars. Coach Jim Boeheim would finish the year with 799 career wins, and would have to wait for the 2009-2010 season to get number 800.
© RLYoung 2009