7:00 PM ET, February 2, 2004
XL Center, Hartford, Connecticut
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 percent shooting.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 deeper."He still beat us because he's a terrific player," Calhoun said.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 percent).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."
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