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Syracuse nips UConn, claims Big East crown

Feb 26, 2012 - 5:43 AM Storrs, CT (Sports Network) - Kris Joseph scored a game-high 21 points as No. 2 Syracuse escaped Gampel Pavilion with a 71-69 victory over Connecticut to clinch the Big East regular-season title.

Saturday's narrow decision also marked a milestone for Orange head coach Jim Boeheim, who earned his 400th career Big East conference win.

Fab Melo added 11 points and nine rebounds for Syracuse (29-1, 16-1 Big East), including the go-ahead dunk in the final minute to lift the Orange to their ninth straight win.

Jeremy Lamb netted 19 points to lead the Huskies (17-11, 7-9), who lost for the eighth time in 11 games. Andre Drummond contributed 15 points and 13 rebounds in a losing effort.

"We played hard. We definitely fought today," said Lamb. "Everybody was focused and really played together at the end. We can definitely build off this."

Syracuse held a 43-29 advantage at the break and Joseph opened the second half with a three-pointer to give the Orange their largest lead of the game, but Connecticut would not go quietly.

The Huskies started their comeback attempt with a 17-8 run to close the gap to 54-46 with 13:29 left in the game.

A pair of Joseph free throws followed by a Scoop Jardine layup extended Syracuse's lead back to 11 before the Huskies reeled off a 14-3 swing to knot the game at 63 on Drummond's layup with 4:18 remaining in the contest.

Connecticut would not take the lead, though, as back-to-back layups by Joseph and Melo put the Orange back on top.

The Huskies battled back to tie the game at 69 with 47 seconds left when Roscoe Smith followed up a Ryan Boatright miss with a tip-in, but Melo's put- back slam on the other end made it a 71-69 contest with half a minute remaining in the game.

Boatright's three-point attempt on Connecticut's ensuing possession was partially blocked by Dion Waiters, but the loose ball was deflected out of bounds by Syracuse with 13.3 seconds showing on the clock.

Then, coming out of a timeout, Smith's off-balance shot while being harassed in the lane was turned aside by C.J. Fair to seal the victory for Syracuse.

"We wanted them to go inside and take our chances with what would happen in there," Boeheim said. "We just didn't want to let them have a three. [Waiters] did a nice job on the first one, and then everybody did a good job getting out there and forcing them to get the ball inside. We made a good play there."

After Drummond's dunk gave the Huskies a 6-5 lead three minutes into the first half, Connecticut would never have the lead again, as the Orange answered with a 20-5 run to jump out to a 25-10 lead and take control of the game.

Connecticut trailed by at least nine for the remainder of the half as they shot just 36.7 percent from the floor en route to a 43-29 deficit at the half.

Game Notes

Syracuse leads the all-time series, 53-36...The Orange improved to 9-1 on the road this season, including an 8-1 mark in Big East road contests...UConn fell to 12-4 at home and 4-4 in Big East home games...Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun missed his seventh straight game with a worsening spinal stenosis, a lower back condition. He has missed 28 games in his 26-year tenure as the Huskies' coach. UConn is 14-14 in those contests.