UConn wins; parts ways with Syracuse
AP Basketball Writer
HARTFORD, Conn. — There was no big ceremony. No showing of a highlight package on the scoreboard.
When Connecticut’s 66-58 victory over No. 6 Syracuse was official Wednesday night, it meant the end of a rivalry for now.
The two national powers are not scheduled to play again. Syracuse will play next season in the Atlantic Coast Conference, while Connecticut will stay in the realigned Big East.
Syracuse-Connecticut conjures up a bunch of great games. Two Hall of Fame coaches. Enough All-Americans to fill a school bus and a game that went six overtimes and brought these programs — and their rivalry — to a new level.
“It was definitely a big game. I know the tradition and the rivalry between these two teams,” said Connecticut freshman Omar Calhoun, who had 15 points in his one and only meeting with Syracuse. “They got to leave (the Big East) with a taste of UConn in their mouth going to the ACC.”
It will be weird for a while to hear Syracuse being in the ACC, but it shouldn’t be long before the Orange have big games with Duke and North Carolina.
“It’s one of those things that happens,” Boeheim said. “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 win was big for Connecticut, which lost to Syracuse three times last season. The Huskies came up big when they had to and it had Ryan Boatright thinking of his safety.
“I was thinking if these people rush the court, I’m getting out of here,” he said. “I’m not that big. I can’t have everybody jumping on me.”
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 of scheduling Connecticut in the future.
Their last game was a close one until Calhoun, who finished with 15 points, 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.
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.”
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.