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'Marathon Men' advance to final

NEW YORK -- When John and Chris Groat were students at Syracuse University, the brothers helped pay their way through school by selling t-shirts.

As proud alumni in 2006, the upstate New York natives used their business, (Holyshirt!) as a way to capitalize on Orange point guard Gerry McNamara's four-wins-in-four-days Big East title run by mass producing a simple orange shirt that asked, "Overrated?"

Popular amongst students and alums, the shirt has become fashionable in the Carrier Dome. So when John witnessed the Orange's six-overtime quarterfinal clash with UConn Friday morning from his second-row seat at Madison Square Garden, he called his brother back home, and agreed another shirt needed to be made. "It was such an unusual occurrence," John said. "We knew it would make a really kick-ass commemorative."

And so it was that 1,000 orange shirts that read "Syracuse Marathon Men" were made at their print shop near campus and brought down to Manhattan before Friday night's semifinal against West Virginia. "I guess people will do anything for a dollar," said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim after his team beat the Mountaineers 74-69 in overtime with McNamara watching from his third-row seat beneath the basket. "There's something to Gerry's run and this one, though. Gerry's was unbelievable. This one might be unbelievable in another way."

As the shirt notes, the six-overtime thriller saw 244 points and 266 minutes played over two calendar days. The much more manageable semifinal, at two hours and 52 minutes, meant that the Orange would extend their marathon week one more time.

"If we win they'll say this is the first time anyone's won five games in four days," said Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins, who noted that the Orange are just five minutes short of a full-game played based on their seven overtime sessions.

Having hydrated throughout the day with Gatorade deliveries to their hotel rooms on the hour, every hour, the Orange showed little lingering effects from the early-morning victory. Able to bounce with the same sureness that he showed against the Huskies, Jonny Flynn, who logged 67 minutes in the win, played all 45 minutes, scored 15 points and registered nine assists after a sleepless night spent in anticipation. "I wasn't sure Jonny was going to make it through overtime," Boeheim said, "but he always does."

Many Orange fans who stayed until 1:46 a.m. Friday, returned for the semifinal, and could be forgiven for feeling a sense of dejavu when Eric Devendorf shot from beyond half court to nail a three-pointer at halftime. Too close to not be reviewed, the public address announcer announced that the play was being examined by the referees. Waiting, the crowd again stirred just as it had the night prior when Devendorf's apparent game winner was waved off. "It was a flashback," said Syracuse sharpshooter Andy Rautins, who scored 12 points, all on three pointers. "At least this one counted."

Orange coaches and trainers were again feeding their players Gatorade in the locker room after the game. Facing a Louisville team that suffocated Villanova's guards with pressure defense earlier in the night next, Flynn knows he cannot yet rest. "They're the toughest defense I played against," said the sophomore

Apparently unfazed by the pressure, Flynn sees the challenge as another opportunity to make a memory. "What's been done here is really mind boggling," said Boeheim, leaning against the locker room wall. "Just incredible."

If the Orange win, that might just make for a good commemorative shirt slogan.

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