Originally created 01/25/00

Syracuse tops Connecticut

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Syracuse answered another question with its most impressive victory in a so-far perfect season.

The fourth-ranked Orangemen remained the nation's only unbeaten team with an 88-74 victory over No. 6 Connecticut on Monday night as six players scored in double figures.

It seemed no matter what Syracuse did this season, there was a question about how good the Orangemen really were.

Syracuse's first 10 games were all at home and the competition wasn't too steep. Then the Orangemen (16-0, 6-0 Big East) went on the road for three straight games and won all three.

Connecticut (13-4, 2-3) was the first ranked team for Syracuse and the Orangemen responded with an emphatic win.

"That's about as well as we've played this season and we're getting better," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said after the Orangemen matched the 1917-18 team for the best start in school history. "We did a good job defensively and a good job on the boards. We played well."

The game also added to the questions facing Connecticut, which has lost three of its last six and has now doubled its loss total from last season's national championship run.

"To put it bluntly, they punked us," Connecticut guard Khalid El-Amin said. "They got up on us, got in our face. We didn't bring our intensity tonight and that's not characteristic of this team. We're 2-3 in the league and can't afford to drop any more games."

Ryan Blackwell had 18 points and 12 rebounds for Syracuse, which finished with a 47-31 rebound advantage, while Etan Thomas had 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Jason Hart had 14 points and eight assists for the Orangemen, Tony Bland had 12 points and Damone Brown and DeShaun Williams added 10 each.

"This is a great accomplishment," said Preston Shumpert who had six points for the Orangemen. "We proved that we're a great team. A lot of people have been riding us, the schedule, whatever. Tonight we showed that we can play with anybody and beat anybody. They can't say nothing now."

Jake Voskuhl had 19 points for Connecticut, while Kevin Freeman had 14 and El-Amin nine, six in the first half as he was held below 10 points for just the third time this season.

"They were able to cut the head off the dragon with us a little bit with Khalid," Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said. "They locked him up."

Syracuse put this one away with a 22-2 run in the first half as it broke from an 18-18 tie. Williams, a freshman, had eight points, including consecutive 3-pointers that made it 40-20 with 5:11 left. The Orangemen led 44-26 at halftime and it could have been a lot worse as they missed their last 10 shots from the field in the half.

The Huskies, whose three other losses were by a total of 12 points, never could get a sustained run in the second half. A dunk by Thomas on a nice pass from Hart with 11:14 left gave Syracuse its biggest lead, 66-41. Hart's 3-pointer with 8:01 left made it 69-47 and was the Orangemen's last field goal of the game as they went 19-for-23 from the line the rest of the way.

"It seemed like at one point (in the second half) that they were looking around like they didn't know what hit them," Thomas said of Connecticut. "They were surprised the way we came out and just attacked them, played with so much emotion, and just kept going."

When the game ended it seemed that quite a bit of the 26,474 in attendance stormed the Carrier Dome court in celebration. Hart kept encouraging the crowd throughout the game to get louder.

"We just kept feeding off each other," said Hart, who had El-Amin most of the game. "Our man-to-man defense was the best I've ever seen since I played here. We just didn't give him (El-Amin) a chance to get going. We knew that he's the head of their team. Once you kill the head, everybody else is just out there playing."

Last season, Connecticut was the last undefeated team in the country and Syracuse went into the Hartford Civic Center and beat the top-ranked Huskies 59-42. Connecticut was missing starters Voskuhl and Richard Hamilton because of injuries.

"One thing I can guarantee is that they haven't played any better this year, at least not on the tapes we saw," Calhoun said. "The reason we didn't come back tonight was Syracuse. They played tremendously and we can play better than what we have. We've just been very inconsistent."


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