Second-ranked Orange host Huskies in Big East affair

With their sights still set on a Big East ranked Syracuse Orange welcome the defending national champion Connecticut Huskies to the Carrier Dome this afternoon.

The Orange won their fourth straight game with a thrilling 64-61 overtime decision against 14th-ranked Georgetown this week. The win was Jim Boeheim's 880th career win, moving him past Dean Smith and into sole possession of third place on the all-time wins list. The victory also pushed the team's record to 24-1, matching the best start in school history (2009-10).

The defending champs better flip a switch fast if they are to even make it into the Big Dance this year. The Huskies have lost five of their last six games, including a humbling 80-59 loss at Louisville this week. To make matters worse, head coach Jim Calhoun has taken a leave of absence for medical reasons, leaving the team in the hands of associate head coach George Blaney.

The Orange hold a 51-36 edge in the series with the Huskies including wins in three of the last four meetings. However, it was UConn that earned a 76-71 victory in the last matchup in the 2011 Big East Tournament.

The Huskies have paid the price for their youth this season, as a pair of sophomores and a pair of freshmen reside in the starting five. Sophomore guards Jeremy Lamb (17.2 ppg) and Shabazz Napier (13.1 ppg) are the top two scorers on the roster and are a dangerous backcourt tandem. Lamb leads the team with 49 three-pointers, while Napier heads the group in assists (5.5 apg). Freshman guard Ryan Boatright (10.4 ppg) has been in and out of the lineup due to eligibility issues, but has settled in of late. Freshman big man Andre Drummond (9.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg) has shown flashes of brilliance in the middle.

Not much went right for UConn at Louisville this week, as the team shot a poor .351 from the field, weighed down by a 3-of-14 showing from three-point range. In addition, the Huskies were outrebounded 45-36 and turned the ball over 15 times. Boatright led the way in defeat with 18 points. Alex Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith added 11 and 10 points, respectively, but Lamb and Napier combined for just 16 points.

Kris Joseph hit six three-pointers, en route to a career-high 29 points in the win over the Hoyas. The see-saw battle had 15 ties and 18 lead changes, before Syracuse outlasted Georgetown. The newly returned Fab Melo was instrumental in the win as well, finishing with 11 points, seven rebounds and six blocked shots.

The performance by Joseph was a little out of the ordinary, although the senior does lead the team in scoring at 14.3 ppg. Dion Waiters is the only other double-digit threat at this time at 12.2 ppg. A complete team effort this week, scoring depth is found in Brandon Triche (9.8 ppg), C.J. Fair (8.4 ppg), Scoop Jardine (8.2 ppg) and Melo (7.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 68 blocks). An efficient team, Syracuse is shooting .477 from the floor overall and averaging a healthy 77.6 ppg. The defensive effort has been stellar, with opponents averaging just 60.8 ppg and being held well under 40 percent shooting (.383).