Former Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun, center, speaks with Associated Press writer Jim O'Connell, left, as Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim, right, reacts, before an NCAA college basketball game between the two teams in Hartford, Conn., Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Wednesday, February 13, 2013 11:09 pm
Connecticut beats No. 6 Syracuse 66-58
By JIM O'CONNELLAP Basketball Writer
An avid watcher of college basketball, Boeheim was talking about the wild season where top five teams lose games just like anybody else.
"That's the problem," he said. "Anybody can beat anybody on certain nights."
On Wednesday night, Boeheim watched his team struggle with its outside shooting in Connecticut's 66-58 victory over the sixth-ranked Orange.
It was the last time these two national powers from the Big East Conference would meet in a scheduled game.
Syracuse will play next season in the Atlantic Coast Conference while Connecticut will stay in the realigned Big East although the Huskies could be enticed to head to another conference if asked.
"It's been a great series. Syracuse and Connecticut have played some great games over the years," Boeheim said. "It's one of those things that happens. It's been talked about a million times in a million places. We couldn't stay together. I feel bad about the whole thing."
The Orange were done in by a 4-of-23 effort from 3-point range and a second-half run keyed by freshman Omar Calhoun.
"I thought Connecticut did a tremendous job in terms of getting into the middle and getting the ball out to the 3-point shooters," Boeheim said. "They made all the key shots in the second-half run there.
"They shot 8 for 14 from 3, which is the best anybody's shot against us in a long time and we didn't shoot so well."
Calhoun scored 15 points, including three 3-pointers in the big run, to lead Connecticut in the rivalry's finale, for now.
There is no chance they would meet again this postseason as Connecticut has been banned from the Big East and NCAA tournaments as part of a punishment for failing to post a passable APR score.
"We're open to playing anybody but even if we did play it wouldn't be the same because your true rivals come from your conference," Boeheim said.
Their last game was a close one until Calhoun started hitting from beyond the 3-point line.
He started the run with a 3 that gave the Huskies (17-6, 7-4 Big East) the lead for good at 45-42 with 9:49 to play.
Calhoun's others 3s were the last two baskets of a 13-4 run that gave the Huskies a 55-46 lead with 6:14 to play. The Orange (20-4, 8-3), who dropped into a three-way tie for first place in the conference with Georgetown and Marquette, came up empty in four of their six possessions during the run.
Ryan Boatright had 17 points for Connecticut while fellow guard Shabazz Napier had 10 points and seven assists. The two combine for 33.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game.
"Our guards. It starts and stops with them," first-year Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie said. "Omar was spectacular shooting the ball. It was our guards who get him open shots."
It wasn't all smooth for the Huskies, who committed 18 turnovers - seven over their season average - but they made up for that with some solid shooting. They shot 46.7 percent overall (21 of 45) and they were 8 of 14 from 3-point range with Boatright and Calhoun both making three.
"I knew that was my shot and when the ball came I was ready," said Calhoun, who came into the game shooting 32.3 percent from beyond the arc (32 of 99). "The crowd was going crazy. It was definitely emotional out there."
Michael Carter-Williams had 15 points to lead the Orange but he had just one assist and that will cut into his 8.5 average that leads the country. James Southerland had 14 points for Syracuse and he was 4 of 9 from 3-point range, the only bright spot in a game where the Orange were 4 of 23 from 3-point range (17.4 percent).
"To hold a team to 4 for 23 from 3 is big time and 35 percent overall is big time," Ollie said. "It was guys battling and a showing a lot of heart."
Connecticut managed to outrebound the Orange 38-36, an impressive stat for the team that is 14th in the 15-team conference.
This was the 70th time the schools met as members of the Big East. Syracuse came in with a 37-32 lead in the series. They met 14 times in the Big East tournament and the Orange were up 8-6. That includes their 127-117 six-overtime victory over the Huskies in the 2009 quarterfinals.
Overall the schools met 92 times and Syracuse has won 54 games.
The Huskies have one goal since they cannot play in the postseason. They are in a three-way tie for fifth place with Louisville and Notre Dame.
"It would mean everything," Boatwright said of winning the regular season title. "We knew that they would try to take everything from us and bury us. For us to come out and play with pride and play for UConn, the best thing we can do to show them is to win the regular season title."
Then he added his thought on beating Syracuse.
"They are leaving the Big East with a bad taste of UConn in their mouth," he said.