It earned national attention for his Division III program and instantly became a memorable night for all involved.
The record-setting game the Skidmore men’s basketball team played 10 years ago did more than that, too, for the program head coach Joe Burke was only just starting to lead.
Skidmore’s Nov. 23, 2010 non-conference game at Southern Vermont College finally ended after the teams played seven overtimes, which set the Division III record and tied the overall NCAA men’s basketball record for game length, and with Burke’s squad picking up a 128-123 victory from a game that saw more points scored in overtime than in regulation.
“Just wanted to find a way to come out on the right side of it,” Burke said Tuesday of the third game he ever coached at Skidmore. “Who knows where we are now, 10 years later, if we take an ‘L’ instead of a ‘W’ there.”
Burke means it, too. All these years later, it’s that super-long game in Bennington, Vermont, that Burke views as the one that solidified the vision of what he wanted the Skidmore program to be with him at its helm.
“When you take a job, you’re trying to get buy-in from people,” Burke said. “And I had a good group, a really solid group of kids, that I was trying to convince to buy into what I was teaching and the culture I wanted. . . . It had been a hard couple months, taking over the program and trying to get it right.”
Burke wanted to lead a program with a “mentality of toughness and togetherness” at Skidmore.
“That game helped support the things I was talking about and what I wanted to accomplish,” said Burke, who has led Skidmore to six trips to the NCAA tournament.
The numbers from that seven-overtime game, which had a delayed start because Skidmore showed up late to Mountaineer Athletic Center since the team’s bus had broken down on its way to picking up the Thoroughbreds, are staggering.
Skidmore grabbed 79 rebounds . . . and was out-rebounded by eight.
One Southern Vermont player played all 75 minutes . . . and attempted 40 shots.
In all, the teams combined to take 230 field goals and 103 free throws . . . and missed 145 and 41, respectively, of them.
“It was an early-season game, without a doubt,” Burke, laughing, said about the game’s shooting figures. “But it was competitive; those teams really got after each other.”
For Skidmore, three players played at least 40 minutes, with Gerard O’Shea — now a Skidmore assistant coach — leading the way at 66 minutes. John Mantas played 59 minutes and led Skidmore with 27 points, while five others scored at least 14 points — including Melvis Langyintuo, who had 18 points and 21 rebounds before becoming one of the game’s eight players to foul out.
Skidmore’s win received national attention for several days, and the first couple of them were a blur for Burke. He got home after the win and couldn’t sleep “because the adrenaline was just so high,” then made the six-hour drive that following day to Maryland to spend Thanksgiving with his family that had not yet made the move from Annapolis — Burke was an assistant coach at Navy prior to heading to Skidmore — to Wilton. On the way to Maryland, Burke stopped at one point to call into ESPN’s “First Take” to talk about the game.
“I remember not really shutting down at all until after Thanksgiving Day,” said Burke, whose team’s marathon game was played two days before the holiday.
That 2010-11 Skidmore team finished at 18-10 and emerged from the Liberty League — which is not conducting winter sports this season because of the coronavirus pandemic — to play in the NCAA tournament. Winning a league championship to advance to the NCAA tournament, Burke said, is the happiest memory from that season, but tales of the seven-overtime game are the memories most-often shared from that campaign.
“Ten years later,” Burke said, “I still can’t believe it — and I lived it.”
CAIRNS SET TO DEBUT
On “all the official stuff,” she’s listed as “Catherine Cairns.”
“But everyone still calls me ‘Dolly,’” the former Saratoga Springs High School standout said in a phone interview.
Cairns is a freshman for the Rhode Island women’s basketball program, which is set to start its season Saturday against Providence. After scoring more than 2,000 points during one of the best careers in Section II girls’ basketball history, the 5-foot-7 guard said she feels ready to contribute right away with her shooting.
“I just think of it the same way,” Cairns said. “It’s a new game, and I’m on a new team and at a new competition level, but the same rules apply as they did in high school.”
Like many schools, Cairns said Rhode Island has needed to pause practices at times during its preseason for reasons related to the coronavirus pandemic. Those instances, Cairns said, only shut the team down for a couple days at a time.
“But even for two days, it still feels like it’s the longest time ever — I can’t imagine doing two weeks,” Cairns said.
Cairns, a kinesiology major, said “some days, it’s very tough” to prepare for the season because of all the uncertainty around the sport.
“But, even on those days, I also have to remind myself that not everyone has this opportunity,” Cairns said.
Cairns is one of a number of former area stars who will start Division I seasons this week.
Notably, Andre Jackson — an Amsterdam native who played at Albany Academy — will also make his college debut Wednesday when UConn plays Central Connecticut. As high school seniors, Cairns and Jackson were nominees to play in the McDonald’s All American Games.