Huskies Need to Bounce Back

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Basketball is the diversion that gets this Upstate New York city through most winters. It has been that way for a long, long time.

But this winter is turning out to be extraordinary under the Carrier Dome. The Orange is the No. 2 team in the country. Syracuse has lost just one game. Coach Jim Boeheim picked up career victory No. 880 Wednesday night, moving him past Dean Smith and into third place on the all-time list.

And when the Connecticut Huskies pulled into town Friday night, there was no snow on the ground. Extraordinary indeed. (It did start snowing lightly late Friday night).

The Huskies need a bounce back game in the worst way. They have lost seven of their last 10. They were embarrassed Monday night in Louisville. Coach Jim Calhoun is missing his third consecutive game because of his medical leave of absence. The prospect of getting a bid to the 2012 NCAA Tournament gets tougher with each loss. And with UConn's APR waiver denied by the NCAA Friday, it seems likely the Huskies will be ineligible for the 2013 tournament.

Maybe that's why Boeheim is nervous. Or maybe it just comes naturally for the Syracuse coach.

"Obviously, we know their backs are to the wall and they're going to come out and play the way they always do against us, which is great," Boeheim said. "We expect that Saturday and we'd be shocked if anything else happened."

Boeheim is sharp enough to understand UConn's lineup has been underachieving.

"They're a huge inside team," he said. "They've got a lottery pick in [Andre] Drummond; [Alex] Oriakhi is a big, physical strong guy; [Tyler] Olander is a strong guy. They've got good guard play with [Shabazz] Napier and [Ryan] Boatright, and Jeremy Lamb … he's a lottery pick. They've got tremendous talent. I'm positive they'll come in here ready to play. They always do."

Not lately. But Saturday is a new day – and a big opportunity for UConn.

GAME CAPSULE

UConn (15-8, 5-6 Big East) at No. 2 Syracuse (24-1, 11-1)

Date: Feb. 11, 2012

Time: 1 p.m.

Site: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.

TV: CBS (Verne Lundquist, Clark Kellogg)

Radio: UConn Radio Network/WTIC-AM 1080 (Joe D'Ambrosio, Wayne Norman)

Series: Syracuse leads, 51-36

Notes: UConn has an all-time record of 13-27 in Syracuse and a 10-16 mark at the Carrier Dome. . . . In Big East regular-season competition Syracuse holds a 27-26 advantage. And in the Big East tournament Syracuse leads 7-6. . . . Last season the teams split two meetings.

Last meeting: UConn 76, Syracuse 71 (OT) (March 11, 2011)

In the semifinals of the Big East championship at Madison Square Garden in New York, UConn needed overtime to get past the Orange. Kemba Walker led the way with 33 points, 12 rebounds and five assists in 45 minutes. Alex Oriakhi added 15 points and 11 rebounds.

SYRACUSE PROBABLE STARTERS

G 11 Scoop Jardine Sr. 6-2 195 8.2 ppg

G 20 Brandon Triche Jr. 6-4 205 9.8 ppg

C 51 Fab Melo So. 7-0 255 7.6 ppg

F 32 Kris Joseph Sr. 6-7 215 14.3 ppg

F 25 Rakeen Christmas Fr. 6-9 228 3.1 ppg

UCONN PROBABLE STARTERS

G 13 Shabazz Napier So. 6-1 171 13.1 ppg

G 3 Jeremy Lamb So. 6-5 180 17.2 ppg

G 11 Ryan Boatright Fr. 6-0 160 10.4 ppg

C 12 Andre Drummond Fr. 6-10 270 9.7 ppg

F 10 Tyler Olander So. 6-9 225 5.3 ppg

NOTABLE

DISTRACTION CENTRAL: UConn associate head coach George Blaney, filling in again for Calhoun, met with reporters at the team hotel. Players were not made available for interviews (UConn obviously didn't want questions about the failed NCAA waiver attempt). Blaney was asked about the NCAA's denial of UConn's waiver request. "I don't really have a reaction," he said. Then Blaney was asked if all the "drama" of this season (Calhoun's health, Ryan Boatright's eligibility issues, dealing with the NCAA, academics, etc.) has had an impact on the players. "I always think you lose games because of how you played and how the other team played," Blaney said. "Whether or not some of these things go into altering how we prepare or how we play that night, possibly those things affect it. But that's what good teams overcome. We had some pretty good adversity things last year and we were able to overcome that. This team is still learning how to do that."

CALHOUN UPDATE: UConn hasn't indicated what is next for Calhoun. He has been to medical experts this week to have his back condition further examined but there's no word on his return to the bench. "I've been talking to him mostly two times a day, usually before and after practice," Blaney said. "He sounds better. I think he's getting closer and the doctors are getting closer to determining what they're going to do. He still is in pain. He still has trouble getting around a lot. But he certainly sounds better to me."

BIG CROWD:With Syracuse leaving for the SEC some time in the future, it really isn't known if this might be UConn's last appearance in the Carrier Dome. If it is, there will be a lot of witnesses. A crowd of more than 32,000 is expected Saturday.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "No snow in Syracuse? In 40 years of coming here that might be a first. And that's in the summer time, too." – Blaney on arriving in the ‘Cuse.


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