Connecticut-Syracuse Preview

The last time Syracuse and Connecticut faced each other in the

Big East tournament, the game lasted early into the next morning in

an epic six-overtime battle.

The 11th-ranked Orange will look to continue their tournament

success against the No. 21 Huskies as the two face off Friday night

for a spot in the championship game.

Syracuse (26-6) and Connecticut (24-9) are meeting for the fifth

time in seven years in the Big East tournament, and the first time

since the Orange’s 127-117 six-overtime victory in the 2009

tournament quarterfinals, a game that lasted nearly four hours.

Of the 12 Big East tournament meetings between Jim Boeheim’s

Syracuse and Jim Calhoun’s Connecticut teams, it was by far the

most memorable and extended Boeheim’s streak over Calhoun at

Madison Square Garden to four games.

Kemba Walker will look to snap Connecticut’s postseason losing

streak to Syracuse after hitting a game-winning shot at the buzzer

in the Huskies’ 76-74 win over top seed and No. 3 Pittsburgh on

Thursday.

“The best player in my opinion for his team made another winning

shot, a big-time shot,” Calhoun said. “There wasn’t any doubt in my

mind what option it would be when he put the hard dribble down.

Kemba has made a ton of big shots.”

Walker finished with 24 points. He’s averaging 26.0 points in

the tournament and has helped ninth-seeded Connecticut pull within

one win of the tournament title game after the Huskies ended the

regular season losing four of five.

Walker seems to be thriving under pressure, even though, as he

puts it, everybody knows the ball is going to end up in his hands

late.

“I’m one of the more experienced guys on my team and I’ve been

through a lot you know,” he said. “So everybody knows that and I’m

going to be the one to take that last shot or make the last

play.”

Connecticut could be without starter Roscoe Smith, who received

eight stitches and was tested for a concussion after taking an

elbow to the face in the first half of the win. He spent the rest

of the game on the bench.

Walker had a forgettable performance in Connecticut’s 66-58 home

loss to Syracuse on Feb. 2, scoring a season-low eight points on

3-of-14 shooting. The Huskies were ranked sixth in the AP Poll at

the time of the defeat.

For the Orange, that win snapped a four-game losing streak and

turned their season around. They advanced to the semifinals after a

79-73 win over fifth-seeded and No. 17 St. John’s on Thursday.

Brandon Triche scored a season-high 22 points and freshman center

Fab Melo added a season-high 12, including two layups in the final

two minutes.

The Orange shot 37 percent in the first half, trailing by five

at the break, but they went 16 of 32 from the field in the second

half and closed the game by going 5 of 6 from the free-throw line

over the final 26 seconds.

After losing six of eight, Syracuse has won six straight.

“We learned our identity as a team,” Scoop Jardine said of the

losing streak. “We were in a hole and had to dig ourselves out. …

We knew what we had to do and the things we had to do to overcome

that and I think that was the best thing that could have happened

to our season because we found our identity and stayed together

through the whole thing.”