SYRACUSE ORANGE (20-3)
at CONNECTICUT HUSKIES (16-6)
XL Center – Hartford, CT
Tip-off: Wednesday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Line: Syracuse -4.5, Total: 135.5
No. 6 Syracuse looks to end its road losing skid when it visits UConn on Wednesday night.
The Orange are 4-2 SU on the road this season, but those two defeats have been consecutive, dropping an overtime game at Villanova on Jan. 26, and then getting crushed 65-55 at Pittsburgh on Feb. 2. But since that game, Syracuse has won two straight blowouts, breezing by then-No. 25 Notre Dame by 16 points and blowing out St. John's by 19 points on Sunday. The Huskies have won four of their past five games, but those four victories have come versus the Big East cellar dwellers who have a combined 11-35 SU record (24%) in conference play. Beginning with the epic six-overtime game in the 2009 Big East Tournament, the Orange have dominated the Huskies, winning six of the past seven meetings, including all three last season, and two straight victories in Connecticut.
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Syracuse's offense is solid, scoring 75.5 PPG on 45.2% FG, but its defense has been phenomenal, allowing just 58.7 PPG on 36.6% FG (4th in nation) and 28.1% threes (8th in D-I). The 2-3 zone has a lot to do with these low numbers, but the Orange are also aggressive with 6.7 blocks per game (5th in nation) and 10.0 steals per game (7th in D-I). PG Michael Carter-Williams (12.4 PPG) is the engine to this offense, leading the nation with 8.5 APG and ranking third in the country in steals with 3.1 SPG. He logged a total of 17 minutes in the three meetings with UConn last season, but averages 33.9 MPG this season and is coming off a stellar performance in Sunday's win over St. John's when he had 17 points (6-of-9 FG), six steals (career high), four rebounds, eight assists and just two turnovers, improving his season Ast/TO ratio to 2.36. Senior SG Brandon Triche (14.6 PPG) leads the team in scoring, while also tallying 3.7 APG and 3.6 RPG. He's scoring 16.0 PPG in his past six contests, but has been cold from behind the arc in the past five tilts, going 6-for-30. He also shot poorly against UConn last season, making just 7-of-20 FG. But the biggest matchup problem the Huskies will have is on 6-foot-8 junior SF C.J. Fair (14.0 PPG, 7.2 RPG). He has 13 straight double-figure scoring games (16.1 PPG) and has pulled down 7.5 RPG during this scoring surge. In the two regular-season meetings with UConn last year, Fair averaged 10.0 PPG (on 9-of-14 FG) with 9.5 RPG, but was 0-for-4 from the floor in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals win, playing just 15 minutes. After missing six games due to an NCAA eligibility issue, senior PF James Southerland (13.6 PPG, 5.0 RPG) returned to action on Sunday and scored 13 points in 26 minutes. The Orange are now 16-1 SU this season when Southerland plays. He scored 10 points with four rebounds in last season's Big East tourney win over UConn.
Connecticut usually employs a three-guard offense, and it is pretty effective with 71.2 PPG on 44.8% FG. The Huskies commit just 11.5 turnovers per game (29th in D-I), and shoot an outstanding 74.5% from the free-throw line (30th in nation). But the Huskies don't shoot very well from three-point range (33.7%), which could really hurt against Syracuse's zone that forces teams to try their luck with deep shots. UConn's lack of size also makes it one of the weaker rebounding teams in the nation with a minus-4.3 RPG margin. Junior G Shabazz Napier leads the way in scoring (17.2 PPG) and ranks second on the Huskies in both assists (4.3 APG) and rebounds (4.3 RPG). He has scored at least 14 points in five straight games, averaging 19.4 PPG, 5.4 APG and 4.2 RPG during this stretch. But in last season's series with Syracuse, Napier averaged just 8.7 PPG on 35% FG, scoring zero points (0-for-3 FG) in the home loss and making just 5-of-17 shots in the Big East tourney defeat. Fellow backcourt mate Ryan Boatright (15.8 PPG, 4.4 APG) also struggled against the Orange in those two most recent meetings, hitting just 7-of-22 shots. But he has made a conscious effort of driving to the hole in the past three games, getting to the line 22 times and making 20 of those free throws. Boatright had 20 points (10-of-10 FT) in Sunday's win at Seton Hall. The third guard in the rotation is freshman Omar Calhoun (11.1 PPG, 3.4 RPG) who had a strong road trip last week with 15.5 PPG (6-for-15 threes) and 5.0 RPG. The team's major frontcourt contributor is sophomore F DeAndre Daniels (10.7 PPG, 4.8 RPG), but he has struggled in the past three games with 8.7 PPG on 10-of-30 FG. He logged just five minutes total against Syracuse last season, going 0-for-3 from the floor and 0-for-2 from downtown. Reserve C Enosch Wolf (3.4 PPG, 3.4 RPG) will not play in this game, as the 7-footer was suspended indefinitely after being arrested Monday in a domestic dispute.