HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun was pleased
with the way his Huskies handled Syracuse.
Emeka Okafor had 25 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks and No.
5 Connecticut cruised to an 84-56 win over the 18th-ranked
Orangemen on Monday.
"That was one of the best combination games we've played,"
Calhoun said. "We were tough and we were good. And that's a nice
combination. Coming down the stretch in February every game is big
and you want to start proving things to yourself."
The Huskies (18-3, 6-1 Big East) held the Orangemen to 31
Okafor had his 14th double-double of the season, and 43rd of his
career. Ben Gordon finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and eight
assists for the Huskies, winners of eight of their last 12 meetings
with the Orangemen.
Hakim Warrick led Syracuse (14-4, 4-3) with 26 points and 11
rebounds. He had 16 points in the first half, but was held without
a field goal for the first 11 minutes of the second half. UConn was
able deny Warrick the ball inside and made him catch it a little
"He still beat us because he's a terrific player," Calhoun
UConn has struggled all year from the line and was last in the
Big East (58 percent) coming into the game, but turned in a solid
performance. The Huskies made 24 of a season-high 40 attempts (60
Okafor found himself on the line several times because of
physical play inside, and hit 7-of-13.
"That's the Big East. I was expecting that going into
conference play and that's what I got," Okafor said. "People
going to be physical. You just need to need to be physical and
strong and stay with it."
UConn led 41-31 at the half and put the game away with a 22-5
run in the first 12 minutes of the second half.
The teams changed leads three times in the opening seven minutes
of the first half. Huskies reserve forward Charlie Villanueva hit
all four of his free throws on consecutive possessions to give
UConn the lead for good at 17-14 with 12:24 remaining.
Villanueva got more playing time after freshmen forward Josh
Boone injured his left shoulder and left the game with 5 minutes to
play in the first half. Villanueva and Okafor combined for five of
UConn's seven first-half blocks.
The Huskies made just 4 of 22 3-pointers. Gordon had two of them
and finished four points shy of his average.
"The guys didn't need me to have a big scoring game," Gordon
said. "I just tried to get involved doing other things,
rebounding, setting people up. That seemed to work."
The Huskies' post players struggled for much of the period
against Warrick, who had 16 points in the half, nearly all from
strong inside moves. He was the only Syracuse player who finished
in double figures.
Villanueva finished with 12 points and nine rebounds.
The Orangemen were still without starting point guard Billy
Edelin, who sat out for personal reasons. The Huskies held guard
Gerry McNamara to nine points, eight below his average.
"They've stopped everybody, they are a good defensive team,"
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "If you do get by, they've got
the shot blocker down there."
With the win, Calhoun picked up his 665th career win, passing
Hall-of-Fame coach John Wooden of UCLA for sole possession of 20th
place on the all-time win list.
"I'll remember this night," Calhoun said. "To be mentioned in
the same breath with John Wooden is incredibly special to me
because of who and what Coach Wooden represents."