HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Connecticut needed a big-time win and the Huskies
(No. 19 ESPN/USA Today, No. 23 AP) got it Monday night by using balanced offense and solid defense to beat Syracuse (No. 18, No. 17) 75-61.
"This won't make up for any tough losses, but we just beat a
quality team and we needed a quality win badly,'' said sophomore
center Emeka Okafor, who had 15 points, 12 rebounds and six blocked
The Huskies (15-5, 6-3 Big East) won their second straight game
since losing two in a row by more than 20 points. They improved to
2-1 without coach Jim Calhoun, who was released from the hospital
Sunday, three days after having surgery to remove a cancerous
prostate. They also won their second game without starting point
guard Taliek Brown, who will be out four-to-six weeks with a broken
"We just got it done,'' Okafor said of the Huskies' first win
over a ranked team this season. "Coach is out. Taliek is out. This
shows what we can do, and we're doing it at a good time. The Big
Chief is out, but we're holding down the fort.''
Freshman Carmelo Anthony matched his career high with 29 points
and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Orangemen (16-4, 7-3), who had won
three straight and five of six.
"Their defense was tough, they denied us and tried to take the
lane, but we missed shots we usually make,'' said Anthony, who was
9-for-25 from the field and scored 12 of his 17 second-half points
after getting an offensive rebound. "At the beginning of the game,
Coach said we had to hit the offensive boards, and that wasn't easy
because they had some big guys in there.''
Connecticut spread its offense out, as seven of its eight
players scored at least seven points. Meanwhile, Syracuse was
pretty much limited to converting offensive rebounds for points.
The Orangemen, who entered the game third in the league in
scoring (81.1) and second in field goal percentage (48.8), were
20-for-67 from the field (29.9 percent), including 8-for-37 in the
second half. They also finished 2-for-17 from 3-point range.
"The way we played on offense, we were fortunate to be in the
game. We just didn't get anything in the basket,'' Syracuse coach
Jim Boeheim said. "If we would have made a couple of shots, the
game goes down to the wire.''
Syracuse's first 17 points of the second half came on free
throws, and its first field goal was accidentally put in by Okafor
as he tried to grab a rebound.
The first field goal for the Orangemen came on an alley-oop to
Hakim Warrick with 11:05 to play, and it pulled them to 50-44. They
got to 50-46 just over a minute later on a layup by Kueth Duany,
but the Huskies went on a 13-5 run that featured a short jumper by
Ben Gordon, the first field goal of the half for the Huskies'
Rashad Anderson had 13 points for Connecticut, which had lost
three of its last four against Syracuse, while Gordon had 11, well
below his 20.6 average.
"This was the kind of game where that just happened,'' Gordon
said of the balanced scoring. "We can be that kind of team when
guys get in their rhythm, we can share the wealth and have everyone
Warrick and Duany each had 12 points for Syracuse, which
finished with a 41-38 rebounding advantage, including 21-11 on the
Connecticut associate head coach George Blaney, who's filling in
for Calhoun, praised his team and then added that this could be a
very big win as the regular season winds down.
"I couldn't be more pleased with the toughness, the quickness
and execution of Jim Calhoun's team,'' he said. "To hold them to
29 percent and play the kind of game we played, there are usually
three or four defining moments in a season, and I hope this is one