By JIM O’CONNELL AP Basketball Writer=
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Since the Big East was formed there were always games that stood out on the conference schedule.
One of the best of the rivalries was Syracuse against Connecticut. Two Hall of Fame coaches, dozens of All-Americas, even a six-overtime game that took the rivalry to another level.
It’s over for now.
When Connecticut beat No. 6 Syracuse 66-58 on Wednesday night it meant is that there are no scheduled games between the national powers.
Syracuse will play next season in the Atlantic Coast Conference while Connecticut will stay in the realigned Big East although the Huskies could be enticed to head to another conference if asked.
“It’s been a great series. Syracuse and Connecticut have played some great games over the years,” said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. “It’s one of those that happens. It’s been talked about a million times in a million places. We couldn’t stay together. I feel bad about the whole thing.”
Freshman Omar Calhoun scored 15 points, including three 3-pointers in the deciding second-half run, to lead Connecticut in the rivalry’s finale, for now.
There is no chance they would meet again this postseason as Connecticut has been banned from the Big East and NCAA tournaments as part of a punishment for failing to post a passable APR score.
“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.
Their last game was a close one until Calhoun started hitting from beyond the 3-point line.
He started the run with a 3 that gave the Huskies (17-6, 7-4 Big East) the lead for good at 45-42 with 9:49 to play.
Calhoun’s others 3s 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 (20-4, 8-3), 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.
Ryan Boatright had 17 points for Connecticut while fellow guard Shabazz Napier had 10 points and seven assists. The two combine for 33.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game.
“Our guards. It starts and stops with them,” first-year Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie said. “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 8 of 14 from 3-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 4 of 9 from 3-point range, the only bright spot in a game where the Orange were 4 of 23 from 3-point range (17.4 percent).
“To hold a team to 4 for 23 from 3 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. 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 victory over the Huskies in the 2009 quarterfinals.
Overall the schools met 92 times and Syracuse has won 54 games.
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. When someone did ask there were frowns and little else.
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 since they cannot play in the postseason. They are in a three-way tie for fifth place with Louisville and Notre Dame.
“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.”
Then he added his thought on beating Syracuse.
“They are leaving the Big East with a bad taste of UConn in their mouth,” he said.
Southerland was playing in his second game since returning from a six-game absence while some eligibility issues were cleared up.
The Huskies were without 7-foot-1 center Enosch Wolf, who has been suspended indefinitely from the team after he was arrested for what university police have called a “domestic dispute.” The native of Germany is averaging 3.4 points and 3.4 rebounds in 22 games.
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