Huskies Cruise To 84-56 Win

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim knew his No. 22 ranked Orangemen would have its hands full when they traveled to Hartford Monday to face off with No. 5 Connecticut Huskies.<br><br>

It would prove to be a complete understatement as UCONN served notice in convincing fashion that they are the team to beat in the Big East conference.

The Husky attack picked apart the Syracuse zone, dominated in transition, and led by National Player of the Year candidate Emeka Okafor's 25 points and 11 rebounds cruised to an 84-56 victory.

The Huskies (18-3, 6-1) now sit in a tie with No. 4 Pittsburgh atop the Big East standings. The 28-point defeat was Syracuse's worst ever against the Huskies. Syracuse (14-3, 4-3) has lost four straight to the Huskies and are losers of two of their last three games.

"Our freshmen can hopefully see now that these types of games are different than Virginia Tech," Boeheim said. "This is an eye-opening experience. UCONN has a great team."

Syracuse jumped out to the early lead on a four-point play by Gerry McNamara 26 seconds into the game. Junior Hakim Warrick would score the Orange's next five baskets and give Syracuse the 14-13 lead with 13 minutes to play. Warrick, the lone bright spot for the Orange, scored 16 first half points on 7-of-12 shooting.

A Connecticut quartet of defenders that included Okafor, Charlie Villanueva, Josh Boone, and Hilton Armstrong did little to slow Warrick. The junior showcased his soft hands and touch inside as well as some quick feet and a reliable jumper. He finished with a game-high 26 points and added 11 rebounds, seven of which came on the offensive end.

UCONN answered back as they did the entire game, stringing together a 9-2 run over the next three minutes to regain the lead, one they would never relinquish.

Connecticut dominated on the offensive side of the ball, finding and attacking the gaps in the Syracuse zone and forcing the Orangemen to play a fast-paced tempo. The Huskies outscored Syracuse 16-0 in transition points in the first half and built a 41-31 halftime lead.

"We didn't score enough in the second half and really got out of rhythm offensively," said Boeheim, whose Orange scored just 25 second-half points.

"Gerry was pressured into taking some bad shots. He has a lot of pride and he tried to keep us in the game."

Syracuse pulled to within seven points in the second half with 17:50 to play on a 3-pointer from Demetris Nichols, but would get no closer as UCONN put together a 22-5, 12-minute run to put the game out of reach. In his second consecutive start in place of Billy Edelin, Nichols scored eight points.

The Huskies put the clamps on McNamara, holding him to just nine points on 2-17 shooting, including 2-of-11 from long distance. Following his four points in the game's opening seconds, McNamara was held scoreless until the 11:15 mark in the second half. In Syracuse's two double-digit losses to the Huskies last season, McNamara was held to a total of six points.

The Connecticut defense held the Orangemen to 31 percent shooting from the field and out-rebounded Syracuse 43-34.

Okafor led four Huskies in double figures. Denham Brown added 16, Villanueva pitched in with 12 points and nine rebounds, and Ben Gordon narrowly missed a triple double with 13 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists.

"We got in a groove and it gave us confidence," said Okafor, who racked up his 14th double-double of the season. "We came out and executed and got things done."

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