STORRS, Conn. – Jim Boeheim stood on the sideline and didn’t say a word during the second half of the Syracuse men’s basketball game against Connecticut on Saturday. His lack of yelling might have said more.
A media timeout with 11:46 remaining gave Boeheim time to assess the damage.
Seconds earlier, Connecticut freshman Rudy Gay hit a jump shot to extend the UConn lead to 13 points. Then, Connecticut junior Denham Brown hit a 3-pointer to further the lead.
There wasn’t much Boeheim could say or do. A halftime tie had turned into a massacre in just minutes.
Connecticut used a blistering second-half offense to quiet the Orange, 88-70, at Gampel Pavilion on Saturday before a sellout crowd of 10,167. Connecticut swept the season series against SU after defeating the Orange, 74-66, on Feb. 7 at the Carrier Dome.
‘Connecticut’s played very well,’ Boeheim said. ‘Over the last part of the season, they’ve played the best basketball of anyone in our league, and I think they’re playing as well as any of the top three or four teams in the country.’
Brown led the No. 15 Huskies (21-6, 13-3 Big East) with 21 points while Gay added 16 points in 19 foul-shortened minutes. Connecticut won a share of the Big East title but lost the tiebreaker with Boston College, which defeated Rutgers later on Saturday.
The Huskies have won 10 of their last 11 and showcased Saturday why they remain a threat to repeat as national champions.
No. 13 Syracuse (24-6, 11-5) showed that it remains an enigma, losing for the fifth time in the past nine games.
This time, SU could thank an empty offense and a porous defense for the second-half calamity.
With the game tied at 37 at halftime, Syracuse remained in strong position to contend on the road and pick up an RPI-boosting victory. Instead, the Orange lost a blowout for the first time all year.
‘We’ve been in every game,’ Boeheim said. ‘This was really the first game in the last 10 minutes we didn’t have a chance to win it.’
Connecticut capitalized on 14 of its first 18 second-half possessions, for a total of 26 points. By comparison, Syracuse scored just 10 points in that span, six by Craig Forth.
Sophomore forward Demetris Nichols missed multiple shots, including one 3-point attempt, Gerry McNamara missed on multiple 3s and Josh Pace contributed with a pair of misses.
But it didn’t stop there.
Hakim Warrick, who led SU with 25 points, 15 in the first half, missed on a jumper and a tip-tin, and Louie McCroskey missed a 3 and a lay-up. Even Forth, who scored six of the 10 SU points during the UConn run, contributed, missing on three free throws and a slew of other close baskets.
‘We didn’t come out strong in the second half,’ said SU sophomore Terrence Roberts. ‘We had a couple of mental lapses. They took the lead, and once they took it, we couldn’t get it back.’
When Syracuse finally got its offense in gear, it went to Warrick more in the post, and the senior drew more fouls. But Syracuse’s misfortune struck from the free-throw line from that point on.
SU shot a dismal 44 percent from the free-throw line in the second half. But during the first 13 minutes of the half when the Orange still had a chance in the game, SU was 5-for-19 – a 26 percent clip.
On five straight occasions, Syracuse’s only chance to score came from the line. Connecticut routinely fouled the Orange – 18 in the second half, 28 for the game – and made SU come back from the line.
Clearly Syracuse could not.
‘We had our opportunities,’ Pace said. ‘We missed some shots. We missed some free throws. You’ve got to give (Connecticut) credit, but we had our opportunities.’
Pace said Syracuse just needs a complete, 40-minute effort. If that happens, Pace said, Syracuse will be fine in the future.
But on Saturday, the absence of a second-half offense doomed the Orange and reiterated Pace’s point.
‘The second half, we had some opportunities,’ Boeheim said. ‘You can’t get empty trips down the court. Offensively, we couldn’t get anything in the basket.’
1 2 F
No. 13 SU 37 33 70
No. 15 UConn 37 51 88
Orange (24-6, 11-5)
P R A
Warrick 25 6 2
Pace 12 5 3
McNamara 12 4 5
Forth 8 8 1
Roberts 6 2 0
Nichols 4 2 0
McCroskey 3 3 1
Watkins 0 2 0
Wright 0 0 2
Huskies (21-6, 13-3)
P R A
Brown 21 2 2
Gay 16 3 3
Williams 11 5 10
Boone 10 5 1
Villanueva 9 14 2
Nelson 9 3 0
Thompson 6 4 0
Armstrong 4 3 1
Kellogg 2 0 3
Baisch 0 0 0
Forostoski 0 0 0
Ameziane 0 0 0
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