Kevin Armstrong
Friday March 13th, 2009

NEW YORK -- Prior to the late-night shift at Madison Square Garden Thursday, UConn senior guard A.J. Price was making sure all his co-workers were accounted for in the hallway outside the team's locker room.

"Punch in," the player-foreman said, extending his fist toward freshman point guard Kemba Walker. "Time to go to work."

Next in line was junior forward Stanley Robinson. "Punch in," Price said, again extending his fist. "UConn goes to work."

Unknown to Price at the time was the fact that he would work six overtimes, score 33 points and clock 61 minutes before leaving the workplace. Unable to finish the job, he punched out after picking up his fifth foul in the final frame and exited with an unwanted, 127-117 Big East Championship quarterfinals loss on his time sheet. "Something, I don't know what it was, kept the door opened," said UConn coach Jim Calhoun. "We've been good at shutting it, just not tonight."

History, the unseen force operating inside The World's Most Famous Arena during the contest, insisted the game go on, and so it did. Growing increasingly stubborn as the night ticked into morning, the door finally gave way in the sixth overtime. In a final show of effort, a slow-dribbling Syracuse point guard Jonny Flynn raised his hand to signal the end of the second longest game in Division I history. "I can't really even feel my legs," said the typically tireless Flynn, who scored 34 points and logged 67 minutes.

In winning the longest game ever played in Big East history, the Orange, as fatigued and famished by fouls as they were by the end, survived several game-ending attempts from the Huskies by shooting 23-of-26 from the line. Their reward? A West Virginia team that looked primed for a March run after beating second-seeded Pitt. Putting their timetable in perspective, Flynn said, "We've got to turn around for West Virginia, well, today."

Added Syracuse forward Paul Harris, who scored 29 points in 56 minutes: "I just want to give a shout out to our strength and conditioning coach."

At 12:46 Friday morning, the Madison Square Garden public address announcer said, "Ladies and gentleman, you are now presently watching the longest game in Big East tournament history", but it was the moments that will be remembered more than the 1:22 a.m. finish. For every Flynn-inspired flourish, including his blow-absorbing left-handed layup in the second overtime, there was a response from UConn freshman point guard Kemba Walker, weaving his way through the Orange zone. For every time Price cut through the lane or pulled up for a three, there was a defiant Eric Devendorf, driving right back at him or an Andy Rautins (6-of-12 three-point shooting) sure-shot from atop the key to answer.

Not to be forgotten were the hard-hat post players, particularly those from Syracuse who allowed just two more points in the paint than the domineering UConn front line. "We attacked [Hasheem] Thabeet better than we ever have," Boeheim said regarding his team's play against the conference's Defensive Player of the Year. "I've never been prouder of any team that I've ever coached."

Workmanlike in their own way, the Orange will punch in at nine o'clock Friday night for their semifinal -- just over 19 hours after they walked off the Garden floor.

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