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Syracuse basketball opponent preview: What to know about Connecticut

first_imgSyracuse’s improbable postseason run will continue all the way to the national championship game on Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The No. 4 seed Orange (30-7, 13-3 Atlantic Coast) will take on three-time defending champion No. 1 seed Connecticut (37-0, 18-0 American Athletic). The Huskies haven’t lost in 74 straight games and SU will try and break that streak.On Monday, SU head coach Quentin Hillsman described the matchup between the two teams, “one that’s great and one that’s trying to be great.”Here’s everything else you need to know before the national championship game.All-time series history: Connecticut leads 37-12Last time they played: Syracuse’s final game in the Big East came against Connecticut in the 2013 Big East tournament semifinal on March 11, 2013. The Orange lost 64-51 against the eventual national champions. Current WNBA player Kayla Alexander led SU with 14 points and nine rebounds. Syracuse took a 2-0 lead but trailed for the final 38 minutes of the game. Seniors Cornelia Fondren, Brittney Sykes and Brianna Butler, who were freshmen at the time, combined for 14 points on 6-of-15 shooting. UConn’s Breanna Stewart tied Alexander for a game-high 14 points. She also grabbed seven rebounds as the Huskies outrebounded Syracuse 38-23.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“It was hard to guard around the arc and on the inside playing a zone,” Sykes said of UConn’s personnel three years ago, “but they did a good job of moving us around but we also did a good job of guarding them.”The Connecticut report: What makes the Huskies so dangerous is even when one or two top players are shut down, their offense can still run through everyone else. In the first half of the national semifinal, Stewart was held to two points. Still, UConn led 47-26.“If Stewy had not come to UConn, we might still be (in the Final Four),” UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said on Saturday. “And after Stewy leaves, we might be back.”Fellow seniors Moriah Jefferson (point guard) and Morgan Tuck (forward) have helped carry the Huskies combining for 26.1 points per game. UConn also leads the country in both points scored per game (88.2) and points allowed per game (48.3). Notre Dame and Maryland, A No. 1 and No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, respectively, were the closest any team came to knocking off the Huskies during the regular season. Each of those teams lost by 10 points.“The thing about UConn is everybody that pops up to catch the ball can shoot it, pass it and drive,” Hillsman said. “So we’ve just got to have some toughness and guard the ball and get matched up.”Stats to know:61 percent — Breanna Stewart is shooting 61 percent from the field during the NCAA tournament.4 — No women’s college basketball team has ever won four straight national titles. Connecticut would become the first team to do that with a win on Tuesday.+39.9 — Connecticut’s +39.9 scoring margin not only is the best in the country, but it’s 15.8 points better than second-best Baylor. UConn hasn’t just beaten teams, its destroyed them.Player to watch: Breanna StewartThe three-time defending Final Four Most Outstanding Player is eyeing her fourth to cap off what has been nothing short of a phenomenal career. Stewart, a North Syracuse native, is averaging 19.2 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per game this season.When asked how to simulate UConn in practice, Hillsman said, “I don’t think you can, because you don’t have Breanna Stewart popping out to the top of your action and who can shoot it or put it on the floor. You don’t have that kind of player that dive down to the post and steal you and run (isolations) for.”Stewart is in the same category as former UConn legends Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore. Depending on who you ask, she may even be the greatest women’s college basketball player of all time. But the last time anyone will see her play in college will be on Tuesday night and all spotlights will be on her. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on April 4, 2016 at 5:34 pm Contact Paul: [email protected] | @pschwedslast_img

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