I Was There: The UCONN Gutpunches

Andrew Porter, editor of TheUConnBlog has two #iwasthere games, though one of them didn't take place in the NCAA's.

As a freshman at UConn in 2006, I piled into a car with some friends to drive down to Washington D.C. and watch what I assumed would be an easy waltz into the Final Four. I should have been concerned after UConn needed a buzzer beater and overtime to squeak by Washington in the Sweet 16, but I wasn't because the next game was against George Mason and there was no way some upstart Cinderella was getting past the loaded Huskies. Obviously, I was wrong. I did not realize anything was wrong until there were about 10 minutes left in the second half. The crowd was going nuts (it was essentially a home game for them) and George Mason just would not go away. Every time the two teams traded buckets my heart sank a little lower. That changed when Denham Brown got lucky on a layup and sent the game to overtime. I told myself that despite how tough they looked in regulation, there was no way Mason was going to be able to hang around for five more minutes. Because I am an idiot, I believed that and it made the pain of losing exponentially worse. Four years and a trip to the Final Four later, I'd like to say I'm over the loss, but the fact that George Mason is now shorthand for successful underdog means that every March I'm going to be tormented by the memory every time a small school does well.

Three years after the Mason loss, I headed to Madison Square Garden to watch UConn play Syracuse in the Big East Tournament. The Orange had eliminated UConn from the tournament in two of the previous three years, so I was hoping for revenge. Instead I got six overtimes (and thank god for that, if Eric Devendorf's buzzer-beater at the end of regulation had counted, I probably would have jumped off the roof). All seventy minutes of the game seem to run together in my memory, so I have a hard time telling you if UConn blew its best chance to win in the first, third or fifth overtime, though I do know they blew a lot of chances.
The game went so long that I didn't get out of the Garden until after the last train back home had left. More importantly, all the vendors left at the end of the second half, so I spent two hours of overtime cheering and had no access to water. By the time I got out I would have killed someone for a glass of water.
I would have been elated if UConn won, but by the time it was over I was too tired to care. Now, I don't even consider it a bad loss. It was a freak, once-in-a-lifetime occurrence and I'm just happy I got the chance to witness it.