Big East powerhouses Syracuse and Connecticut have played plenty of memorable games over the years. It’s doubtful, though, that they’ve been in any that were more extraordinary - and exhausting - than the last time they met.
The second-ranked Orange look to stretch their winning streak to 11 games Wednesday night when they host the Huskies in the first meeting since the teams needed six overtimes to decide their Big East tournament quarterfinal last year.
In the second-longest game in Division I history, Syracuse (23-1, 10-1) won 127-117 over Connecticut (14-9, 4-6) at Madison Square Garden last March. It finished one overtime short of the Division I record set in Cincinnati’s 75-73 victory over Bradley on Dec. 21, 1981.
“It was an unbelievable game,” said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim the day after the contest. “It was great to be a part of it.”
Each team had four players foul out. Jonny Flynn logged 67 minutes and had 34 points and 11 assists for Syracuse while A.J. Price had 33 and 10 in 61 minutes for Connecticut.
Both Flynn and Price are gone from teams headed in different directions. Connecticut was ranked No. 12 in the preseason after reaching the Final Four and Syracuse was unranked, but the Huskies fell out long ago while the Orange have nearly risen to the top.
The Orange were heavily dependent on Flynn and Eric Devendorf last season and shot 48.7 percent. This season, a more balanced attack bolstered by Iowa State transfer Wesley Johnson has resulted in Syracuse leading the nation in field-goal percentage at 53.1.
“There was a lot of individual play last year, a lot of isolation,” guard Andy Rautins said. “This team really moves the ball and we enjoy playing defense.”
The Huskies, meanwhile, have split six games since coach Jim Calhoun took a doctor-ordered medical leave. They ended a three-game skid Saturday as Jerome Dyson scored 20 points in a lackluster 64-57 home win over last-place DePaul.
“We still have a lot of work to do, but it’s a Big East win,” guard Kemba Walker said. “We’ll just take it and build from this.”
UConn is 0-5 on the road and 1-4 against ranked teams. The Huskies have won three of their last four visits to the Carrier Dome, and have taken five of their last six regular-season meetings with the Orange.
“It appears sometimes that we play to the competition,” interim coach George Blaney said. “That’s what it’s starting to look like. So, hopefully, we’ll be jacked up and ready to play against Syracuse. We’re going up there with our destiny in our hands rather than in anybody else’s hands.”
This matchup pits the top defensive teams in the league. UConn is limiting opponents to 38.2 percent shooting while Syracuse is second at 38.3.
The Huskies, however, are struggling offensively and have failed to reach 70 points in their last four games.
Syracuse can move one-half game ahead of No. 4 Villanova for first place in the Big East. Rautins led four players in double figures with 20 points in Sunday’s 71-54 win at Cincinnati.
Johnson, who averages a team-high 16.2 points, played only three minutes in the second half. He scored a season-low five points after suffering a hard fall earlier in the week in a win over Providence.
“Wes is sore,” Boeheim said. “He was probably pushing it to even go. He felt like he could play, but he was sore and just didn’t have the mobility.”