Connecticut has gone 2-1 since it last played Syracuse on Feb. 11.
Most recently, the Huskies won a dramatic game over Villanova, 73-70, in overtime on Monday. Shabazz Napier hit a long 3-pointer with less than a second to play, keeping UConn’s tenuous NCAA tournament hopes alive.
The Huskies are 7-8 in the Big East, and a win against Syracuse would bolster a checkered resume. Can the Huskies avenge their loss at the Carrier Dome?
Here are three other questions to ask on Saturday:
CAN UCONN SLOW DOWN SYRACUSE?
The Orange is coming off one of its worst offensive performances of the season, shooting 34.5 percent against South Florida on Wednesday. But on Feb. 11, SU had its best shooting performance in Big East play, hitting 59.3 percent from the field and 10-for-16 from downtown.
The Orange also turned the ball over just nine times and held a 27-24 advantage on the boards.
It goes without saying that Huskies will need to play stronger perimeter defense and rebound the ball better.
But on top of that, UConn will need its key players to stay out of foul trouble.
Alex Oriakhi was a non-factor, picking up four fouls in 14 minutes. Andre Drummond had to sit out with an injury, but also had four fouls of his own in 28 minutes.
Without the two big men clogging the middle, CJ Fair had a strong performance, with 14 points (most coming inside the paint) and 12 rebounds.
CAN JAMES SOUTHERLAND GET GOING?
Said Syracuse Jim Boeheim during his USF post game press conference: “The next couple games we are going to get a little bit more time and try and to get James Southerland in there a little bit more. Try to get him going; he’s struggling, try to get him in there.”
Southerland needs all the help he can get at this point.
Since he scored 15 points on 5-for-10 shooting from the field against Notre Dame on Jan. 21, the reserve forward has been just 11-for-38 over his last eight games. He’s also lost his perimeter touch, with just one 3-point made during that time to 17 attempts.
Although Syracuse has been advertised as one of the deepest teams in college basketball, Southerland has topped double figures in minutes just once over his last five games.
With Southerland losing his spot in the rotation, Rakeem Christmas barely playing past the opening tip and Michael Carter-Williams with a combined four minutes his last five games, Syracuse is one again a seven-man team.
A strong finish to the season from Southerland would give SU a much needed addition to the rotation.
CAN ORANGE WIN ANOTHER CLOSE GAME?
In its last three games since SU played UConn, the Orange has had to eek out wins against Rutgers, USF and Louisville.
With ESPN College GameDay in Connecticut on Saturday and a hostile environment awaiting Syracuse, this figures to be another close game.
“I already told the players this is going to be the toughest game they had this year,” Boeheim said.
Of course, if it turns into a close game, SU will be prepared for it.
“We would rather not be in situations like these, but if you look at this thing it could be a positive,” Kris Joseph said. “We could be in this situation further down the road and we’ve been placed in this situation a few times this season. It will help us in the long run.”
But being prepared doesn’t always mean success, even if Syracuse has been on the winning end of tight games.
“We’ve had a few close games and we’ve made plays, so we know how to and we can,” Boeheim said. “You can win six of these in a row and you get another one of these, and you lose.”
Corey Mallonee contributed to this story with reporting from Syracuse.
- Syracuse podcast: Andrew Kouwe on Hopkins leaving, Boeheim staying, next coach - March 24, 2017
- For Syracuse, another one-goal win against Johns Hopkins comes as no surprise - March 19, 2017
- Instant Juice: Mike Hopkins to leave Syracuse, take over at Washington - March 19, 2017
- Syracuse podcast: Chris Carlson on the NIT, 2017 basketball recruiting, Greensboro - March 17, 2017
- Instant Juice: Syracuse 90, UNC Greensboro 77 - March 15, 2017
- Instant Juice: Syracuse basketball left out of NCAA Tournament - March 12, 2017
- Syracuse lacrosse surges, sputters, then hangs on for win against St. John’s - March 12, 2017
- Jim Boeheim pleads case for Syracuse after ACC Tournament loss - March 9, 2017
- Syracuse coach says there’s ‘no value’ in playing ACC Tournament in Greensboro - March 8, 2017
- Instant Juice: Syracuse 57, Miami 62 - March 8, 2017