- Andy Katz, ESPN Senior Writer
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Top-ranked Connecticut's national title and Big East championship hopes took a blow when junior guard Jerome Dyson was diagnosed with a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee Thursday.
Dyson's status for a return at some point this season won't be determined until after surgery is performed and the full damage is revealed sometime next week.
Dyson, a starter in all 24 games this season, was averaging 13.2 points a game, reached double figures in 18 games, led the Huskies in scoring five times and scored 14 points in a key win at Louisville on Feb. 2, and 19 points in a nonconference win over Michigan.
The injury occurred five minutes into a 63-49 victory over Syracuse Wednesday night at Gampel Pavilion. Dyson crumpled to the floor after it appeared he had knocked knees with a Syracuse player. Dyson was helped off the floor by two players without putting any weight on his right leg.
He had an MRI Thursday at Windham Hospital in Willimantic, Conn., and it showed the tear.
"We are obviously all very disappointed for Jerome, who has been such a big part of why we are 23-1 and in first place in the Big East,'' UConn coach Jim Calhoun said in a statement released by the school. "I know that he will work hard in the offseason and be back next year as a major contributor to our future success. As for our team going forward this season, it is another challenge we will have to face. We have very good players who I know will rise to the occasion and fill the void left by Jerome's absence.''
That occurred Wednesday. Senior guard Craig Austrie came off the bench and hit two key 3-pointers in the second half to give the Huskies a four-point lead and help build it to 12 within a matter of minutes.
The Huskies were relatively deep on the perimeter with Dyson, Austrie, starting senior guard A.J. Price and freshman guard Kemba Walker. Calhoun will address who will start in Dyson's place for Saturday's game at Seton Hall Friday but it could be Austrie, who has become a reliable role player. The Huskies like the energy Walker brings off the bench. The Huskies may also play Donnell Beverly a bit more, too. He logged two minutes against the Orange.
Dyson was third on the team in 3-point field goals made with 24, behind Austrie (25) and Price (49). The Huskies have become more of an inside-out team with junior center Hasheem Thabeet and senior forward Jeff Adrien. But Dyson gave them balance with a constant 3-point threat. They can still get that with Austrie next to Price, but they do lose a 3-point shooter off the bench now if Austrie starts.
The Huskies' schedule gets even more difficult Monday with the first of two meetings against No. 4 Pitt in the final five games.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.
Connecticut will be without one of its most productive and dependable players for the remainder of the season.