With a big test looming after this weekend, No. 2 Connecticut looks to start 11-0 for the third time in four seasons Friday night at the XL Center as it tries to end Fairfield’s seven-game winning streak.
Connecticut will open Big East play on Monday with a showdown against No. 12 Georgetown, which leads the nation in defensive field goal percentage at 33.4 percent. The Hoyas have won the last two conference regular-season crowns.
This season, though, it looks like Connecticut may be the team to beat in arguably the nation’s toughest conference. The Huskies are one of 10 remaining unbeaten teams in Division I and are averaging 83.5 points to lead all Big East teams.
Connecticut, which has six players averaging in double figures, will be playing for the first time since an 88-83 overtime victory over then-No. 8 Gonzaga in Seattle on Saturday. A.J. Price scored a season-high 24 points, including a 3-pointer that sent the game into overtime, and Jerome Dyson scored six of his 21 points in the extra period.
“This game assured me of our toughness,” said Price, who also had 10 assists. “Being able to battle adversity, down 11 in the second half on the road, and come back? We are tough.”
The Huskies also got a solid effort from seldom-used reserve forward Gavin Edwards, who saw increased playing time with big men Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien battling foul trouble. Edwards played a career-high 30 minutes and had 14 points and a career-best 12 rebounds after coach Jim Calhoun had been critical of him in the Huskies’ last game.
“He maybe came close to a record of getting yelled at during a game,” said Calhoun, who is 16 wins shy of 800 for his career. “He showed me how wrong I was.”
UConn improved to 3-0 against ranked teams, but before it faces its next such challenge, it must first take care of Fairfield (8-3). The Huskies have won 63 straight games against in-state opponents, including 17 straight against the Stags, who are 0-11 against UConn in Hartford.
In the last meeting between the teams, Connecticut won two seasons ago 74-49. The Huskies still have four starters from that game in their lineup as Adrien had 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Price and Thabeet each scored 12.
Fairfield is enjoying a seven-game winning streak for the third straight season, and is off to its best start since also beginning 8-3 in 1985-86.
The Stags have endured a longer layoff than the Huskies, though, not playing since a 66-60 win over Drexel on Dec. 14. Anthony Johnson had 14 points and a career-high 16 rebounds as Fairfield never trailed.
Senior point guard Jonathan Han is averaging career highs of 12.8 points and 6.3 assists, the latter leading the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.