Huskies look to stay in title race against Hoyas
Published: Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 22:02
With only four games remaining in the regular season, the UConn men’s basketball team has a chance to claim the Big East regular season title. The Huskies must win the remainder of its games including Wednesday night as UConn hosts the No. 7 Georgetown Hoyas at Gampel Pavilion at 7 p.m.
“It’s just a great opportunity for us again to display what we’ve been trying to build on throughout this year,” Head Coach Kevin Ollie said. “We want to have the best attitude in America and hopefully a win will follow that.”
UConn (19-7 overall, 9-5 in the Big East) has won four out of its last five including an impressive 81-69 win at DePaul on Feb. 23. Guards Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright have stepped up after dreadful performances (a combined six points) in a 70-61 loss to Villanova on Feb. 16. But in the last two wins over Cincinnati and DePaul, Napier averaged 27.5 points per game, made 11 of 16 three-pointers and was named to the weekly Big East Honor Roll. At DePaul, Boatright scored 17 points and dished out six assists in front of friends and family from nearby Aurora, Ill., his hometown.
Freshman Omar Calhoun has scored in double figures in the last four games and averaged 13.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in the last two games while battling a wrist injury.
Meanwhile, Georgetown (21-3 overall, 11-3 in the Big East) is one of the hottest teams in the country. Behind the potential Big East Player of the Year Otto Porter Jr., the Hoyas sit in sole possession of first place in the conference after winning nine consecutive games. Georgetown defeated Syracuse 57-46 last time out in front of a NCAA record on-campus crowd at the Carrier Dome.
Porter, the Big East Player of the Week for two straight weeks, scored 33 points with eight rebounds and five steals in what was a statement win for the Hoyas. Porter, a sophomore leads the team with 15.9 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. He also shoots a league-best 45.3 percent from three-point land.
UConn sophomore DeAndre Daniels will likely be given the task to shut down Porter Wednesday night.
Junior Markel Starks and sophomore Greg Whittington are tied for the team’s second-leading scorer at 12.1 points per game. Junior big man Nate Lubick owns a 59.1 percent shooting percentage, the highest in the Big East. The Huskies must also look out for freshman D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera who dropped 33 points in a recent win over DePaul.
The staple for John Thompson III’s team has been his team’s defense. Georgetown is top 10 in the country in scoring defense at 55.7 points per game and field goal percentage defense, holding opponents to 37.4 percent from the field. The Hoyas also limit opponents to 27.4 percent from behind the arc.
“They’re the best team defensively in the league, so if you’re not getting easy buckets on them, its going to be very difficult for you to score, so its paramount not only for us to get on the break, its paramount for us to rebound,” Ollie said. “They’re the most disciplined team we’ll play.”
UConn has taken two out of the last three meetings with Georgetown but the Hoyas won 58-44 last season in Washington D.C.
Although the script to the end of the 2012-2013 UConn season has already been written, the Huskies would likely be a lock for the NCAA tournament if they were not ineligible due to poor APR scores. As of Tuesday night, UConn is ranked 28th in the RPI, 4-5 against the RPI top 50 and owns the 24th toughest schedule in the country. These are all factors the selection committee puts a lot of weight toward come Selection Sunday.
The game can be seen on ESPN2 and heard on 91.7 WHUS.