Fairfield-UConn Preview


Connecticut is gearing up nicely for its upcoming Big East schedule.

Before the eighth-ranked Huskies can turn their attention to conference play, they'll try for a fifth consecutive victory while looking to continue their dominance over visiting Fairfield on Thursday night.

UConn (9-1) has regrouped to win four in a row since losing 68-63 to Central Florida on Nov. 25 in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas. The Huskies needed overtime the next day at that event to beat then-No. 22 Florida State 78-76, but they've won their last three games over Arkansas, then-No. 25 Harvard and Holy Cross by an average of 21.3 points.

Freshman center Andre Drummond had 24 points with eight rebounds while Alex Oriakhi scored 15 as UConn dominated the paint in a 77-40 win over Holy Cross on Sunday. The Huskies went 34 of 68 from the field and their post trio of Drummond, Oriakhi and Tyler Olander combined to score five more points than the entire Crusaders team.

"The best games are when everyone has a good game," Oriakhi told UConn's official website. "That's all you can really hope for. I always want to see my teammates do well because I really care for these guys."

Oriakhi continues to support Drummond, who has totaled 36 points in the last two games after being held to one during a 75-62 win over Arkansas on Dec. 3.

"Someone asked me how much (Drummond) improved thus far," coach Jim Calhoun said. "About 100 percent, and I think he's got about another thousand to go. He's got talent."

The Huskies will need the 6-foot-11 Drummond to be a factor in the Big East, which currently boasts six ranked teams and four in the top 10. UConn was a disappointing 9-9 in the league last season before making a remarkable run to win the conference tournament and NCAA title.

With Thursday marking his team's final game before opening league play next Wednesday at South Florida, Calhoun is pleased with the progression of a squad that features two freshmen and no seniors in the starting lineup.

"We're a much better basketball team," Calhoun said. "Practice in this particular case, because it's a young team, has paid off."

The Huskies will try for a 41st consecutive non-conference home victory while looking for a 65th straight win over schools from the state of Connecticut.

UConn has won 18 in a row over Fairfield dating to an 81-74 loss Dec. 11, 1984. The Huskies won 75-55 at home in the schools' most recent meeting Dec. 26, 2008.

Though the Stags (7-4) have dropped 19 in a row against Top 25 opponents since the beginning of the 1996-97 season, they will try for a fifth consecutive victory after a 58-52 win over New Hampshire on Dec. 11.

Senior swingman and Boston College transfer Rakim Sanders is averaging a team-leading 16.3 points this season. However, he's totaled 17 and gone 6 of 18 from the field in the last two games.

Seven-footer Ryan Olander, who will face younger brother Tyler on Thursday, had 19 points as the Stags shot 52.6 percent against New Hampshire.

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