Sooners get shot at defending champs

UConn center Josh Boone and the Huskies will present a Big challenge for Oklahoma on Big Monday.

NORMAN — Oklahoma heads into tonight's showdown with 9th-ranked Connecticut on a roll, and perhaps with a little revenge on their minds.

The Sooners, who will tip off against the defending national champs at 8 p.m. (CST) Monday night in Norman, were throttled last year at UConn, 86-59, after starting the season 11-0.

And once again, Oklahoma will come into the UConn match-up on a hot streak having won five straight and nine of their last 10.

Connecticut comes into tonight's match-up, which will be broadcast nationally as part of ESPN's Big Monday lineup, on a spurt of their own having won five of their last six games, but their two losses were somewhat surprising.

The Huskies, who return only two starters from last year's national title team — center Josh Boone and guard Denham Brown — started the season 4-0 before losing at rival UMass, 61-59, on December 9.

UConn then won four straight before dropping a 75-70 decision at home to Boston College on January 5. And just like the Sooners, the Huskies haven't beaten a top 25 team to this point, with their best two wins coming at home against Indiana and at Georgetown.

However, despite the Huskies early season growing pains after losing Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon to the NBA, this will be the toughest match-up the Sooners have faced to date, and possibly the entire season.

The only thing UConn lacks is experience. Four of their five starters are either freshman or sophomores, but what the they don't lack is size and talent.

UConn will have the height edge at every position to start the game, and that begins with center Josh Boone. The 6-foot-11 sophomore leads the Huskies in points (16.6), rebounds (10.6) and blocked shots (3.5).

Joining Boone on the Huskies tall frontline is 6-foot-11 sophomore Charlie Villanueva and 6-foot-9 freshman Rudy Gay. Villanueva, who was a member of Kelvin Sampson's USA World Championship Qualifying team this summer, is a threat both inside and out and averages 11.6 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Gay is a talented slasher who has also hit 10 of his 16 3-point attempts this season.

In the backcourt, the Huskies are led by juniors Rashad Anderson and Denham Brown. Anderson is UConn's second-leading scorer (14.2) and top gunner from 3-point range having hit 24 of his 85 3-point attempts.

Brown, one the lone returning starters from last year, is another shooter who is coming off the bench this season. Brown shoots 34 percent from 3-point range (12-35) and averages 9.3 points per game.

At the point for UConn is sophomore Marcus Williams. Williams, who is more of a distributor than a scoring point, averages just six points, but leads the team with 7.3 assists per game.

The meeting will be the fourth ever between the two schools, with each game coming in the last four seasons. The Sooners still lead the all-time series 2-1 despite last year's loss. OU beat the Huskies, 69-67, on a game-winning shot by Ebi Ere in 2002 in Hartford, and then beat the Huskies 73-63 in Norman in 2003.

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