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UConn men go for upset at No. 2 Syracuse

By Colin McDonough
On February 9, 2012

  • Alex Oriakhi dunks the ball last Saturday in the Huskies’ win over Seton Hall. UConn has a tough task tomorrow as they play No. 2 Syracuse. ED RYAN/The Daily Campus

During ESPN's Rivalry Week, the UConn men's basketball team is often featured against Syracuse. This season, ESPN chose to have the Huskies play Louisville and the Orange play Georgetown. Although tomorrow's contest at 1 p.m. at the Carrier Dome is on CBS, it is fitting that UConn and No. 2 Syracuse will meet during Rivalry Week. It is only a matter of time until the Orange leave for the ACC, thus ending the rivalry.

The Huskies and Orange have played in some of the most exciting games in Big East history. In the last four years, the two have met seven times. Last season Kemba Walker led UConn past Syracuse in the Big East semifinals. In 2009, the two rivals played in one of the most memorable games in college basketball history, when the Orange beat the Huskies 127-117 in six overtimes in the Big East quarterfinals at Madison Square Garden. The two have faced each other twice in the Big East championship game, with UConn winning both contests, in 1990 and 1998, respectively.

 But the rivalry is not the only storyline in upstate New York this weekend. UConn is 15-8 and still has work to do to secure a bid to the NCAA tournament. Syracuse is 24-1 and 11-1 in conference play. The Huskies are coming off an 80-59 thrashing at the hands of the Cardinals on Monday night. The Orange beat the Hoyas on Wednesday night at home in overtime.

Coach Jim Calhoun will miss his third straight game due to back problems. George Blaney will again coach the Huskies. Blaney and UConn will have to try to bounce back.

"We're not a bad team," Blaney told the Hartford Courant after the game. "We just played bad in the second half. I think we've got enough kids that are good enough to lead."

The Huskies were down five points at the half. Louisville went on a 41-16 run to begin the second half. The only UConn players in double figures were Ryan Boatright, Alex Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith. Boatright led the team with 18 points, while Oriakhi scored 11 and Smith added 10 points. Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier combined to shoot six of 20 from the field, and Andre Drummond went scoreless. Everyone on the Husky roster will have their hands full due to the depth of Syracuse.

Kris Joseph is leading the team with 14.3 points per game. Dion Waiters is behind Joseph with 12.2 points per game. Fab Melo, who was suspended last month for academic troubles, is back in the line up. In this season, Melo is averaging 7.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. The only loss of the season for the Orange came at Notre Dame.

UConn has not won at the Carrier Dome since 2008. Syracuse is 16-0 at home this season. This will be the first of two meetings in two weeks for the teams. The Orange will come to Storrs on Feb. 25 for a game at Gampel Pavilion. ESPN's College GameDay will broadcast on campus prior to the game.

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