The UConn Huskies return to their second home tonight when they take on Syracuse University at Madison Square Garden in New York City at 7 p.m. in the Tire Pros Classic.
Historically Connecticut has found lots of success at the world’s most famous arena, claiming seven Big East titles and a 2014 NCAA Regional crown in 114 games. The Huskies will have to channel their championship pedigree tonight to have a chance against a solid Orange team that comes in 5-2 overall and ranked 23rd in the nation according to Kenpom.com.
Syracuse needs a convincing win to get back on track after losing two of its last three, with the win coming over North Florida by six points on Saturday. Falling out of the top-25 for the first time this season, the Orange are eyeing a bounce-back victory.
Expect to see plenty of the patented Syracuse 2-3 zone, especially since it has given UConn fits, and lots of Andrew White, Tyler Lydon and Frank Howard. White and Lydon combine for 27 points and 11 rebounds per game while White, a 6-foot-7 graduate transfer from Nebraska, has the size and skill to be a matchup problem for Connecticut.
The Orange have been punishing teams from beyond the arc, shooting .429 percent from three. UConn has struggled to slow perimeter scorers and especially the long ball, allowing opponents to convert nearly 38 percent of their three-point attempts. The Huskies will need to find and stick on shooters in the half court and in transition if they’re to have a chance at pulling off the upset. Howard (.526 percent) and Tyus Battle (.500 percent) in particular have been lethal from long range.
Without Terry Larrier manning the high post, UConn will need someone to step up and score against the zone. Shooting from the outside hasn’t been a strength (.324 percent) and without a legit interior scorer, the pressure will continue to be on Jalen Adams to manufacture offense.
Freshman Vance Jackson has been billed as a stellar outside shooter but has hit just 9-of-30 from three to date. If he can get going from distance, it should help UConn stretch the Orange zone, opening penetration lanes for Adams, Rodney Purvis, and Christian Vital. The Adams and Howard matchup will be one to watch as Howard has quickly turned into one of the premier point guards in the country.
Look the Huskies to attack the backboard against a Syracuse frontcourt that lacks an elite rebounder. If Amida Brimah, Kentan Facey, and Steven Enoch can close out defensive possessions with boards and ignite the fast break, UConn will have opportunities to attack the Orange defense before it settles into its 2-3 zone.