Syracuse vs. UConn: Huskies Will Keep Tourney Hopes Alive with Upset Win at Home
The Connecticut Huskies are in desperate need of a win to keep their 2012 NCAA Tournament hopes alive heading into the month of March, and they will hope to get the win Saturday night when they play host to Big East rival Syracuse at Gampel Pavilion (9:00 PM ET, ESPN).
UConn (17-10 (7-8)) will again be without head coach Jim Calhoun on the sideline, but that won't stop them from riding a pumped-up home crowd to a revenge win over the one-loss Orange (28-1 (15-1)), who enter the critical conference matchup as the No. 2 ranked team in the country behind one-loss Kentucky.
What gives the Huskies hope Saturday night?
The Orange's only loss of the season came on the road in the Big East, back on Jan. 21 at Notre Dame. Since that loss, Syracuse has looked like a more human bunch. A controversial call late saved the day at home against West Virginia in late January and they needed overtime earlier this month to survive Georgetown at the Carrier Dome.
A week later, they edged Louisville by a point on the road and subsequently racked up two more conference wins to guarantee themselves at least a piece of the Big East crown, even if they drop their last two games to UConn and Louisville.
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Despite the defending national champions' struggles this season without last-season's go-to-guy, Kemba Walker, UConn is a solid 12-3 at home, and would be 14-1 had they executed late against Cincinnati and Notre Dame. The Huskies lost those two games by a combined five points.
UConn has lost seven of its last 10 games, however, and that is more than enough to classify them as the underdog in this Big East battle.
However, an 18-point beating at the Carrier Dome exactly two weeks ago has surely left a bitter taste in the mouths of UConn stars Jeremy Lamb (17.9 PPG), Shabazz Napier (5.8 APG) and Andre Drummond (7.6 RPG).
"Connecticut played us evenly for almost the whole game here and then we had a spurt at the end so we know how difficult they can be, it was a two-point game here, I still think they're a very good team and it'll be a very difficult game Saturday." - Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim via ESPN.com
The Orange shot better than 59 percent from the field and nearly 63 percent from beyond the arc in that game as they rode some home cooking from the Syracuse faithful to take the first meeting of the season series.
It's safe to say those same outstanding shooting numbers won't be present in the box score on Saturday night in Storrs, Connecticut.
These Huskies are the defending champions, not only of the Big East but of the nation until early April at least, and they will flex their muscles in primetime Saturday night against a Syracuse team that is beatable and vulnerable having won eight straight games.
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