UConn-Syracuse Preview

The Associated Press

After facing a tough battle in one rivalry game this week, Syracuse is expecting another despite Connecticut's recent woes.

The second-ranked Orange try to stretch their home winning streak to 20 games Saturday and hand the defending national champions a sixth loss in seven contests.

Syracuse (24-1, 11-1 Big East) posted its fourth straight win Wednesday, 64-61 in overtime at home over No. 12 Georgetown. Senior Kris Joseph scored a career-high 29 points, making 6 of 11 3-pointers.

"Kris Joseph had a big night, got us through the game, made big plays the whole game for us," coach Jim Boeheim said. "It was a tremendous win, and a very, very difficult game."

The Huskies (15-8, 5-6) are next after suffering their worst loss, 80-59 at No. 24 Louisville on Monday.

"Connecticut coming in, obviously we know that their backs are to the wall and they're going to come out and play the way they always do against us, which is great," Boeheim said. "So we expect that Saturday, we'd be shocked if anything else happened."

These teams split two meetings last season, with UConn winning 76-71 in overtime in the Big East tournament semifinals.

Huskies coach Jim Calhoun will miss Saturday's game while on an indefinite medical leave of absence because of spinal stenosis, a painful condition in his lower back. George Blaney will replace him for the third straight game.

Blaney may need to repair UConn's confidence after it was outscored 51-35 in the second half Monday.

"We've still won 15 games; we're not a bad team," Blaney said. "We just played bad in the second half and I think we've got enough kids that are good enough to lead."

Boeheim was critical of his team's performance on the glass after the Hoyas outrebounded the Orange 52-35. Syracuse knows it needs improvement against an imposing UConn frontcourt that features 6-foot-10 center Andre Drummond and 6-9 forwards Tyler Olander and Alex Oriakhi.

"They're a huge inside team," Boeheim said. "They've got a lottery pick in Drummond, Oriakhi is a big physical strong guy, Olander is a strong guy."

Drummond leads all Big East freshmen with 2.6 blocks per game, but he missed all six of his shots and failed to score Monday. He'll have a tough matchup with Syracuse center Fab Melo, who has totaled 25 points, 10 boards and eight blocks in two games after missing the previous three due to an academic issue.

UConn also is concerned about top scorer Jeremy Lamb, averaging 12.7 points on 27.0 percent shooting over his last three contests.

"Basically I've got to put the ball in the hole. I can't hit a shot," Lamb said. "I'm in a bad slump right now."

The Huskies are ranked fourth nationally in defensive field-goal percentage at 37.1 while the Orange are the Big East's top shooting team at 47.7 percent.

UConn's problem has been on offense with 36.8 percent shooting over the last five games. Shabazz Napier is shooting 19.6 percent in that span, although freshman Ryan Boatright has stepped up to total 37 points in his last two contests.

"They've got good guard play with Napier and Boatright and Jeremy Lamb's top-10, he's a lottery pick," Boeheim said. "They've got tremendous talent."