HARTFORD, Conn. - Sophomore guard Ryan Boatright (Aurora, Ill.) scored 17 points with four assists and freshman guard Omar Calhoun (Brooklyn, N.Y.) connected for 15 points to lead the University of Connecticut men's basketball team to a 66-58 win over No. 6 Syracuse on Wednesday night before a roaring crowd of 13,518 at the XL Center.
The game was currently the last scheduled game between the two college basketball programs as Syracuse will play in the Atlantic Coast Conference next year. The two schools have won four NCAA titles between them, with Connecticut taking the 1999, 2004 and 2011 titles.
With the win, Connecticut improves to 17-6 on the year and 7-4 in the BIG EAST Conference while Syracuse is 20-4 and 8-3in the league.
"It's been a great series. Syracuse and Connecticut have played some great games over the years," said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim.
Calhoun had three three-pointers in the deciding second-half run, to lead Connecticut.
"We're open to playing anybody but even if we did play it wouldn't be the same because your true rivals come from your conference," Boeheim said of playing Connecticut in a non-conference series.
This game was a close one until Calhoun started hitting from beyond the three-point line. He started the run with a three that gave the Huskies the lead for good at 45-42 with 9:49 to play.
Calhoun's others threes were the last two baskets of a 13-4 run that gave the Huskies a 55-46 lead with 6:14 to play. The Orange who dropped into a three-way tie for first place in the conference with Georgetown and Marquette, came up empty in four of their six possessions during the run.
Junior guard Shabazz Napier (Roxbury, Mass.) had 10 points and seven assists and combine for 33.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game for the Huskies.
"Our guards. It starts and stops with them," said Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie, who should start to be in the conversation for BIG EAST Coach of the Year. "Omar was spectacular shooting the ball. It was our guards who get him open shots."
It wasn't all smooth for the Huskies, who committed 18 turnovers - seven over their season average - but they made up for that with some solid shooting. They shot 46.7 percent overall (21 of 45) and they were eight of 14 from three-point range with Boatright and Calhoun both making three.
"I knew that was my shot and when the ball came I was ready," said Calhoun, who came into the game shooting 32.3 percent from beyond the arc (32 of 99). "The crowd was going crazy. It was definitely emotional out there."
Michael Carter-Williams had 15 points to lead the Orange but he had just one assist and that will cut into his 8.5 average that leads the country. James Southerland had 14 points for Syracuse and he was four of nine from three-point range, the only bright spot in a game where the Orange were four of 23 from three-point range (17.4 percent).
"To hold a team to four for 23 from three is big time and 35 percent overall is big time," Ollie said. "It was guys battling and a showing a lot of heart."
Connecticut managed to outrebound the Orange 38-36, an impressive stat for the team that is 14th in the 15-team conference.
This was the 70th time the schools met as members of the BIG EAST and Syracuse came in with a 37-32 lead in the series. They met 14 times in the BIG EAST tournament and the Orange were up 8-6. That includes their 127-117 six-overtime epic victory over the Huskies in the 2009 quarterfinals.
Boeheim and former Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun, the Hall of Famers who were facing each other on the sideline for almost every one of the BIG EAST games, stood and talked before the game never bringing up the end of the rivalry.
The good friends said goodbye and Boeheim, the second-winningest coach in Division I history behind only Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, walked to the locker room. Calhoun, in his first year of retirement after a career that included three national championships, headed back to a reception he had ducked out of for a while.
The Huskies have one goal in mind right now -- winning the BIG EAST reguar season championship.
"It would mean everything," Boatwright said of winning the regular season title. "We knew that they would try to take everything from us and bury us. For us to come out and play with pride and play for UConn, the best thing we can do to show them is to win the regular season title."
The Huskies return to action on Saturday when they play host to Villanova at noon at the XL Center. The game will be televised by ESPN and heard on the UConn IMG Sports Radio Network.