Connecticut-DePaul Preview

While Connecticut continues to exceed expectations, DePaul has
done nothing to disprove how it was predicted to fare in the Big
East.

The No. 10 Huskies look for a third straight victory Saturday
while trying to hand the Blue Demons an 18th consecutive loss to a
conference opponent.

After finishing 18-16 last season and asking a handful of
freshman to play significant minutes in 2010-11, Connecticut (13-2,
2-2) was picked by Big East coaches to finish 10th among the 16
teams.

Instead, the Huskies are one of the nation’s biggest surprises
with victories over perennial powers Michigan State, Kentucky and
Texas. UConn’s losses have come at Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, now
ranked fifth and ninth, respectively.

“I’m very happy with where we are,” UConn coach Jim Calhoun
said. “I mean 13-2, I should be very happy, given the schedule that
we have played.”

After beating Rutgers 67-53 on Tuesday, the Huskies could be in
for another easy time while trying for their first conference road
win and fourth consecutive victory over DePaul (6-10, 0-4).

Picked to finish last in the Big East, the Blue Demons are
currently 14th and have not beaten a league opponent since a 51-50
victory over Marquette on Jan. 20.

DePaul, averaging 64.0 points on 40.4 percent shooting during
its 17-game conference skid, lost 78-67 at home to Seton Hall on
Wednesday.

“We have to keep our poise and stay focused on what we have to
do to beat a specific opponent,” first-year DePaul coach Oliver
Purnell said. “If we don’t, it’s hard to win. If we do, we’ll have
a chance to win games.”

Though UConn star guard Kemba Walker has totaled 14 points in
two games against DePaul, he ranks second in the nation averaging
25.3 per contest.

With 18 points against Rutgers, Walker failed to score 20 for
just the third time this season. However, sophomore Alex Oriakhi
had 17 points and 12 rebounds after posting 11 with 21 boards in an
82-81 overtime win at No. 12 Texas last Saturday.

“That just gives me confidence when your point guard wants to
get you the ball,” Oriakhi said. “(Walker’s) obviously the best
player on the team and one of the best scorers in the country, so
when some of us can score points it just brings a little pressure
off Kemba.”

Playing in the shadows of former starters Jerome Dyson and
Stanley Robinson, Walker and Oriakhi were each held to nine points
in UConn’s 64-57 home win over DePaul on Feb. 6.

The Blue Demons have averaged 55.3 points and shot 38.9 percent
during their three-game skid to UConn. They managed 14 second-half
points in a 71-49 loss to the then-No. 2 Huskies in the teams’ last
meeting in Illinois on Jan. 28, 2009.

Despite its recent success against DePaul, UConn must try to
contain Cleveland Melvin, who averages a team-high 13.5 points per
game.

The freshman scored 21 against Seton Hall, and has averaged 22.8
in his last five games.

DePaul has dropped 22 straight games against Top 25 teams since
an 84-76 win over then-No. 17 Villanova on Jan. 3, 2008.