Dog fights: Ahead of final regular-season Big East matchup, five of the most memorable Syracuse-UConn games
The rivalry has stretched more than three decades. Syracuse and Connecticut have been battling through the years, creating a rivalry that’s among the best in college basketball. For 26 years, Jim Boeheim matched wits with former Huskies head coach and fellow Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun. The momentum of the rivalry swayed from team to team, with each side having an opportunity to control it. Simply put, the rivalry between Syracuse and UConn helped define the tough, physical league the Big East has become. But when Calhoun retired after last season, the rivalry immediately took on a different appearance. Now it’s coming to a close. The Orange and Huskies will battle in the regular season one final time on Wednesday at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn., before Syracuse moves to the Atlantic Coast Conference. Before it ends completely, though, here’s a look at some of the highlights that have marked the rivalry in the last 30 years.
1. March 12, 2009: Marathon men
It’s one of the most memorable games in college basketball history, let alone the history of the Syracuse-Connecticut rivalry. On one of the sport’s greatest stages – the Big East tournament in the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden – the Orange and the Huskies traded punches for three hours and 26 minutes spanning two calendar days in this six-overtime marathon.
Eric Devendorf standing on the scorer’s table, pounding his chest toward the crowd after hitting an apparent game-winner in the first overtime – only to have it be waved off – remains one of college basketball’s iconic moments. Jonny Flynn played 67 of the possible 70 minutes for SU, scoring 34 points and dishing out 11 assists as Syracuse outlasted UConn 127-117.
To this day, highlights of this game are shown anytime a game starts to creep toward similarly epic length.
2. March 9, 2006: McNamara does it again
Gerry McNamara couldn’t have asked for a better four-game stretch than what he pulled off in the 2006 Big East tournament. After hitting a game-winning 3-pointer against Cincinnati in Syracuse’s first game, McNamara did it again against Connecticut.
The Orange jumped out to a big lead in the first half, but the Huskies battled back to take their first lead with just 30 seconds remaining in regulation.
Then, McNamara struck again. With SU down three, the guard nailed a 30-footer with 5.6 seconds remaining to force overtime, where Syracuse went on to win 86-84. McNamara finished with 17 points and a career-high 13 assists, eight of which came in the first half.
3. Feb. 2, 1994: Syracuse upsets No. 5 Connecticut with scoring explosion 108-95
Connecticut was riding a 10-game winning streak. Sitting among the best teams in college basketball, the Huskies were dominating the Big East. But when the 18-1 Huskies came to the Carrier Dome in early February 1994, Syracuse was waiting to be the first Big East team to knock off No. 5 Connecticut. And the Orangemen did so in emphatic fashion. SU countered the Huskies’ pressing defense perfectly. Connecticut committed atypical mistakes and Syracuse continuously took advantage. Adrian Autry, who’s currently one of Boeheim’s assistant coaches, had a tremendous game, scoring 19 points and dishing out 12 assists. John Wallace also had a double-double, scoring 25 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Lawrence Moten added a remarkable 31 points after going 12-of-24 from the field.
Syracuse’s 108 points were the most it scored in the Orangemen’s 15 years in the Big East at that point.
“If we hadn’t beaten them tonight,” Boeheim said after the game, “I don’t know if anybody would have.”
4. Feb. 3, 1992: Hopkins clinches in closing seconds
Then-guard, now-assistant coach Mike Hopkins rose from the bench to hit a game-winning free throw with three seconds remaining to give the Orangemen an 84-83 win in a Dome shooting duel. Syracuse shot 28-for-71, or 39.4 percent from the field, compared to UConn’s 28-for-45, or 62.2 percent.
The Huskies still managed to outrebound SU 34-33, but the Orangemen dominated the offensive glass 21-9. The victory moved Syracuse into first place in the Big East at 16-3, 8-3 in the conference. Syracuse had actually trailed by nine at the half, but a mid-half shooting spree brought SU back into the game.
With the score tied on what looked like the game’s final possession, SU’s Lawrence Moten missed a 3, but the rebound fell to Conrad McRae, who was fouled and injured on a layup. Hopkins came off of the bench, made his first free throw and airballed his second. Autry and McRae, who returned to the game, deflected the UConn inbounds pass to Kevin Ollie to seal the comeback victory.
5. Feb. 28, 1989: Douglas breaks all-time assists record, SU’s scoring mark
Sherman Douglas imprinted his name in the country and Syracuse record books as then-No. 6 SU beat UConn 88-72. The Syracuse guard put up 11 assists on the night, breaking Northeastern’s Andre LaFleur’s 2-year-old record of 894. When “The General” broke the national helpers mark, the Dome crowd showered the court with vinyl records in celebration.
He took the Orangemen’s scoring record on a dunk with 11:57 left in the game. Douglas finished with 22 points, moving him past Hall of Famer Dave Bing, the former teammate and roommate of coach Boeheim. Douglas left the floor with 1,889 points that Tuesday night. Nearly 24 years later, Douglas sits sixth on the all-time assists list.
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