It could very well be the final time Connecticut and Syracuse meet in the Big East Tournament when the # 2 Orange take on the Huskies in the tournament's quarterfinal Thursday at noon. UConn was led by Shabazz Napier on Wednesday, scoring 26 points, as the Huskies beat West Virginia 71-67 in overtime. The victory earned Uconn their 13th straight postseason win as they move one step closer to winning their second straight Big East Championship.
The Syracuse Orange will have to beat the Huskies for the third time this season, meeting UConn in the Big East tournament quarterfinals for the first time since the famous six overtime game in 2009 where SU came out with a 127-117 win. The Orange seniors would love the opportunity to win their first Big East Tournament championship as a prelude to the NCAA tournament.
"We're just going to take it one game at a time," says SU Senior Guard Scoop Jardine, "Essentially, the season's starting over; we're 0-0 really. In New York, we know we're going to get everyone's best shot. But we just have to continue to play because when we play at a high level, it's hard to beat us."
"Well, we won 30 games; we've got to be doing pretty well," adds junior guard Brandon Triche, "We've been playing pretty well and our defense is on point. That's all that matters right now, especially going into tournament games. We've got guys that can put the ball in the basket, so we need to make sure to play strong defense."
Jeremy Lamb added 22 points and 8 rebounds for the Huskies in Wednesday's win.
Here is more information on Thursday's quarter final matchup from SU Athletics.com.
ORANGE IN THE BIG EAST TOURNAMENT
Syracuse will play its 74th game in the BIG EAST Tournament when it takes the court on Thursday. The Orange has an all-time record of 46-27 in the conference championship. Syracuse is seeded first for the sixth time in BIG EAST Tournament history. The Orange has won the tournament five times, but never as the number one seed.
BIG EAST HONORS
Several members of the Orange earned BIG EAST accolades this season. Sophomore Fab Melo was named the Defensive Player of the Year, while sophomore Dion Waiters earned the Sixth Man of the Year award. In addition, senior Kris Joseph was voted to the All-BIG EAST First Team, and senior Scoop Jardine earned second-team all-league honors. Waiters was voted to the All-BIG EAST Third Team.
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE ORANGE
Syracuse enters the league tournament on a 10-game winning streak after defeating Louisville, 58-49, in the final regular-season contest. The win was the Orange's 30th of the campaign. SU is one victory away from tying the school record for wins in a season.
Senior Kris Joseph is the Orange's leading scorer this season, averaging 14.1 points per game. Joseph was voted to the All-BIG EAST First Team and is a finalist for the Wooden Award. Fellow senior Scoop Jardine runs the Syracuse offense. He leads the squad with 153 assists in addition to contributing 8.6 points per game.
Sophomore Fab Melo has been a force in the middle for the Orange. He leads the team in rebounding (5.8 rpg.) and blocked shots (87). Melo is the 2012 BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year. Junior Brandon Triche, who has started every game of his career, ranks second on the team in three-point field goals (38) and averages 9.4 points per game.
Sophomores Dion Waiters and C.J. Fair have made significant contributions off the bench. Waiters, the BIG EAST Sixth Man of the Year, ranks second on the team in scoring (11.9 ppg.) and leads the squad in steals. Meanwhile, Fair ranks second on the squad in rebounding (5.5 rpg.) and fourth in scoring (9.1 ppg.).
SCOUTING THE HUSKIES
Connecticut advanced to the BIG EAST Tournament quarterfinals with a 71-67 overtime victory against West Virginia in the second round. The Huskies opened the tournament with an 81-67 win against DePaul.
Jeremy Lamb leads Connecticut in scoring, averaging 17.9 points per game. He is one four Huskies averaging double figures in scoring. That group includes Shabazz Napier (12.6 ppg.), Ryan Boatright (10.7 ppg.) and Andre Drummond (10.1 ppg.). Drummond leads the team in rebounding (7.6 rpg.) and blocked shots (85).
Head coach Jim Calhoun is back on the sidelines for Connecticut after missing several games due to a back ailment. Calhoun is in his 26th season at the helm of the Huskies program. He has guided Connecticut to three national championships (1999, 2004, 2011).
Syracuse leads the all-time series with Connecticut, 53-36. The Orange has won five of the last six meetings, including two contests earlier this season. The Huskies last win against Syracuse was a 76-71 victory in overtime in last year's BIG EAST Tournament.
In the last meeting between the two teams, sophomore Fab Melo's offensive rebound and slam dunk with 31 seconds remaining gave Syracuse a 71-69 victory at Gampel Pavilion. The Orange led by as many as 17 points in the second half, but the Huskies used a 14-3 scoring run to tie the score at 63-63 with 4:17 to play. The teams traded baskets before Andre Drummond's tip-in with 47 seconds remaining knotted the game 69-69.
Following an Orange timout, Melo's dunk off C.J. Fair's missed shot gave the Orange the lead for good. Connecticut had two chances to tie or win the game, but the Orange blocked both attempts to hold on for the victory.
Senior Kris Joseph led all scorers with 21 points, while Melo finished with 10 points and a team-high nine rebounds.