Their campuses in Storrs-Mansfield and Hamden are only about an hour apart, but Connecticut and Quinnipiac will be playing far from home in their first meeting in five years.
The 23rd-ranked Huskies will try to extend their winning streak against in-state opponents to 67 - and stay undefeated against the Bobcats - on Sunday night in the semifinals of the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In a series dating back to a 102-60 victory on Nov. 15, 1998 - none prior to Sunday have been on a neutral court - Connecticut is 9-0 versus Quinnipiac following an 82-49 victory in their last meeting Dec. 16, 2007.
That was the first game between these schools after Tom Moore, a former longtime Huskies assistant under Jim Calhoun, left Connecticut to take over as Bobcats' coach in 2007.
Moore gets another crack at his former team after Quinnipiac (2-1) hung on for a 98-92 overtime victory over Iona in Friday's opening round. The Bobcats hit 26 of 31 from the foul line and had five players in double figures. Forward Ike Azotam finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds, while Jamee Jackson and Zaid Hearst both added 17 points.
"It's a great opportunity for Quinnipiac to play against a team as storied as UConn," Moore told the school's official website. "It's a great opportunity for us as our program continues to grow."
The Huskies (3-0), who haven't lost to an in-state foe since Dec. 29, 1986, against Hartford, are making some nice strides under rookie coach Kevin Ollie. Although Connecticut is a bit undersized - it has been outrebounded by an average of 8.7 - the team may have found a new contributor in 7-foot-1 junior Enosch Wolf.
Playing 25 minutes - just 11 fewer than he played in the last two seasons combined - Wolf stepped in for a foul-plagued Tyler Olander and finished with career highs of 12 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals in Friday's 77-71 opening-round win over Wake Forest.
"I've worked hard for this, I got a chance,'' Wolf said. "I've got to show what I can do and keep going from here.''
Ollie might need more big minutes from the big German as the starting frontline of Olander and DeAndre Daniels will need to find a way to slow down Azotam, the Bobcats' leader with 16.3 points per game and 9.3 boards.
Junior guard Shabazz Napier is tops on Connecticut with 18.0 points per game after scoring all 16 of his points in the final 10 minutes on Friday.
"Shabazz finally showed up for us those last (10) minutes,'' said Ollie, whose team will try to open with four wins for the fifth consecutive season. "I'm glad he did.''
Ollie also has to be pleased with the play of sophomore Ryan Boatright, who is averaging 12.7 points with a team-best 5.3 assists. Boatright, a 6-foot guard, led the Huskies with seven boards on Friday.
The Bobcats' three-guard starting lineup of Jackson, Dave Johnson and Garvey Young is scoring a combined 26.3 points per game with Johnson leading the team with 18 total assists.
The winner of Sunday's game will meet George Mason or New Mexico in Monday night's title game. Connecticut won the Paradise Jam in its previous appearance in 2008.
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