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Huskies and Bulls collide to open Big East play

The ninth-ranked Connecticut Huskies open up Big East play this evening, as they take on the South Florida Bulls in conference action at the St. Pete Times Forum.

The defending champs will be playing a true road game for the first time this season. They have certainly enjoyed an early schedule that has seen the team post eight of its 10 victories thus far at home. The lone loss for Jim Calhoun's squad came against UCF in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. Since then, the Huskies have reeled off five straight wins, including last week's 79-71 decision over Fairfield.

Stan Heath's Bulls have had their ups and downs this season and the result is a record that is hovering around the .500 mark at 7-6. The team's homecourt, the USF Sun Dome is under renovations this season so the home slate consists of several different local venues including the St. Pete Times Forum. Regardless of the venue, the Bulls are a perfect 7-0 at home this season. However, South Florida has dropped two of its last three games, including a tough 53-51 loss at Southern Miss last week.

This marks the 10th all-time meeting in this series. UConn has won eight of the previous nine matchups, with the lone loss to the Bulls coming on March 6, 2010 in Tampa (75-68).

The Huskies jumped all over Fairfield in the first half, shooting 54.5 percent from the floor and took a 20-point lead into the break (46-26), Despite shooting an impressive 52.6 percent from the floor in the second half, UConn took its foot off the gas pedal and posted a 79-71 victory over the Stags. Point guard Shabazz Napier led the charge in the win, posting 24 points, six rebounds and five assists. His backcourt partner Jeremy Lamb poured in 18 points, while freshman center Andre Drummond just missed a double-double with 16 points and nine rebounds. Fellow freshman Ryan Boatright was instrumental off the bench, tacking on 10 points and grabbing seven boards. UConn has been strong at both ends of the court this season, averaging 75.2 ppg on .492 shooting, while limiting foes to just 62.4 ppg and holding them under 40 percent shooting accuracy (.362). Lamb leads the way in the scoring column with 18.9 ppg thanks to 50-percent shooting from the field. Napier has the ability to both fill up the basket (15.5 ppg) and get others involved in the offensive gameplan (6.7 apg). Boatright (13.2 ppg) and Drummond (10.0 ppg) provide plenty of depth.

The Bulls have struggled to find offensive consistency this season, resulting in modest numbers. The team is averaging a mere 61.2 ppg and doing it on a pedestrian 43.3 percent shooting. USF is at its best when it turns up the heat defensively. The team is yielding just 57.6 ppg this season. There isn't a whole lot of scoring depth on the roster. Augustus Gilchrist leads the team in scoring at 11.1 ppg, Jawanza Poland is the only other double-digit threat at this time, netting 10.0 ppg. The Bulls certainly played well enough at the defensive end to get a win at Southern Miss last week, holding the Golden Eagles to just 53 points and a meager .346 shooting effort. However, it was once again a lack of scoring punch that did in USF, which managed to shoot just 38.5 percent from the floor, a number weighed down by a horrific 1-of-15 showing from behind the arc. Still, three Bulls finished in double figures in the two-point setback, led by Ron Anderson Jr., who posted 12 points. Gilchrist finished with 11 points and seven rebounds, while High Robertson chipped in 10 points.