Hartford, CT – For the last time in regular season play as Big East rivals the Syracuse Orange and the Connecticut Huskies will square off at the XL Center on Wednesday night.
Next season Syracuse will be making a move to the Atlantic Coast Conference, ending its 34-year tenure as one of the seven founding members of the Big East. The Orange are doing a solid job of leaving in style as coming into the game, Jim Boeheim's squad is 20-3 overall. In conference action Syracuse is 8-2 after a 77-58 rout of St. John's on Saturday. That conference record has the Orange sitting alone at the top of the league standings.
As for the Huskies, they are trying to build off a 78-67 win over Seton Hall this past Sunday. UConn has posted a solid 16-6 overall record in its first season under Kevin Ollie since the retirement of legendary head coach Jim Calhoun. The win against Seton Hall was the fourth in the last five games for the Huskies, who are 6-4 in league action, while posting 10 wins in 11 tries on their home floor.
Connecticut was also one of the seven schools that came together in 1979 to form the Big East. Such a historic rivalry has featured 90 previous meetings, of which Syracuse has won 54, including six of the last seven.
The Orange welcomed back sixth-man extraordinaire James Southerland from a lengthy absence against St. John's. Though Southerland looked a little out of sync to start, he ended up dropping in 13 points as four different players scored in double figures in the 19-point victory.
Getting back Southerland's contributions off the bench (13.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg) is a huge plus for the Big East's top scoring team (75.5 ppg), which had failed to score more than 72 points in its last eight games. Southerland joins the already talented squad that Boeheim puts out, led by top scorer Brandon Triche (14.6 ppg), Big East assist leader Michael Carter-Williams (12.4 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and versatile forward C.J. Fair (13.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg). Fair is the lead rebounder for the Orange, who are second in the conference on the boards (40.2 pg) and 12th in the country overall. Led by its patented zone, Syracuse is letting up just 58.7 points per game, holding teams to the fifth-lowest field goal percentage (.366) in the country.
UConn went into halftime trailing Seton Hall, 35-34 but then turned it on in the second half, shooting 56 percent from the field to coast to the 11-point win. The Huskies had a 21-6 edge in points from the free-throw line that proved crucial in the contest.
Shabazz Napier (17.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 4.3 apg) and Ryan Boatright (15.8 ppg, 4.4 apg) were yet again the power behind the Huskies' offensive efforts against Seton Hall. Napier dropped in 22 points to go with nine assists and Boatright added 20 points. The pair are also pesky on the defensive end, as they combine for 3.6 steals per game. Omar Calhoun (11.1 ppg) teams with them in the backcourt as an additional scoring option, while DeAndre Daniels (10.7 ppg) is the top contributor in a rather weak frontcourt. As a team, UConn is scoring 71.2 points per game and shooting just under 45 percent from the field. However, the lack of size up front has kept the Huskies to the second worst rebounding average among Big East squads (32.5 pg).