Syracuse-UConn Preview

Syracuse-UConn Preview
February 12, 2013, 8:38 pm
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The last time Syracuse endured a longer road losing streak, it fell at Connecticut four years ago.

The Orange, however, have won both visits since.

James Southerland looks to build on a surprising performance in order to give No. 6 Syracuse a third straight road win over the Huskies for the first time in 25 years as it makes its final visit as a Big East member Wednesday night.

The Orange (20-3, 8-2 Big East) have lost back-to-back road games, putting them on the cusp of their longest slide as the visitor since dropping five in a row from Jan. 14-Feb. 11, 2009. That stretch was capped with a loss at Storrs, but Syracuse has won the two subsequent visits, including a 71-69 victory on Feb. 25, when C.J. Fair blocked a shot at the buzzer.

The Orange are now in position to win three straight road meetings with the Huskies (16-6, 6-4) for the first time since 1986-88, and this is their final visit as a member of the Big East. They've won six of the last seven overall versus UConn, including a 58-55 victory in the quarterfinals of last year's conference tournament.

Syracuse, headed to the ACC next season, enters this matchup in search of an overall three-game winning streak after beating St. John's 77-58 on Sunday.

The Orange also regained a major offensive option with the return of Southerland, who missed the previous six games due to an eligibility issue regarding academics. The senior forward finished with 13 points off the bench, as Syracuse won for the 16th time in his 17th games this season.

"As soon as he got his rhythm, he was the same old James knocking down shots," guard Michael Carter-Williams said. "He's a big presence in our offense. It means a lot having him back. It makes us a lot more dangerous."

Southerland, expected to be used exclusively off the bench, is shooting 48.9 percent from the floor - 37.9 from behind the arc - while averaging 13.6 points. He's been even better in three road games, scoring 21.7 points per contest while sinking 50.0 percent from the field and 13 of 30 from long range.

"He's a good shooter," coach Jim Boeheim said, "He gives us a threat outside that pulls the defense out to him, which should open some things up inside. We aren't taking advantage of that but we need to do that."

Southerland also gives Carter-Williams another option from the point. The sophomore guard leads the nation with an average of 8.5 assists, and ranks third with 3.1 steals while adding 12.4 points. He had 17 points with eight assists and a career-high six steals against the Red Storm.

Fair, who had three blocks in the last visit to XL Center, is averaging 18.3 points through three games, while sinking 58.3 percent of his shots.

The Huskies have won 10 of 11 at home - three of four in Big East play - and are opening a three-game stretch as host. They split their last two games on the road and won 78-67 over Seton Hall on Sunday.

Shabazz Napier leads UConn with an average of 17.2 points, and he had 22 on 8 for 12 shooting while adding a season high-tying nine assists and a career-best six steals against the Pirates.

The junior guard struggled to get to 15 points in the last meeting with Syracuse, going 5 for 17 from the floor.

Ryan Boatright wasn't much better with five points after getting 14 in each of the two previous matchups with the Orange. He's coming off a 20-point performance from Sunday.

The Huskies will be without reserve center Enosch Wolf, who was suspended indefinitely following his arrest Monday for his involvement in a domestic dispute.