John F. Silver
The Big East title is still very much up for grabs for the Huskies.
Coming into town today is none other than Big East leader Georgetown.
The Hoyas are ranked No. 7 in the country, possess the favorite for Big East Player of the Year in Otto Porter, are coming off a season-defining win at Syracuse in front of more than 30,000 fans and are riding a 9-game winning streak.
UConn has precious few games remaining. There is no Big East title and no NCAA tournament on the horizon due to the APR ban and that makes No. 7 the penultimate game of the 2012-13 season.
It’s going to come at Gampel Pavilion in front of a capacity crowd with plenty on the line tonight on ESPN2.
UConn (19-7, 9-5) could pick up its 20th win of the season with a victory.
“It would mean a lot,” Shabazz Napier said. “We’ve been through so much. Not one day or one game have we allowed excuses to overcome this team. A lot of good teams don’t have 20 win seasons. It shows a lot from us.
“It shows how tough the team is. No matter what’s going on and or what happened this year we are together and trying to wins games.”
UConn will have its hands full with with Georgetown (21-4, 11-3) and star forward Porter. Porter wowed the country on Saturday with 33 points in the Hoyas’ 57-46 win against Syracuse. Porter is a handful to deal with and is averaging 15.9 points per game and 7.7 rebounds per game on 50 percent shooting and 45.3 percent from 3-point range. A versatile scorer, he’s the first player to stop for the Hoyas.
“(Porter) is just a great player,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. “He’s a typical wing player, can put it on the floor and shoot it at a high rate. He’s long, gets offensive rebounds and goes on the blocks.”
Ollie paused before chuckling.
“Anything else I am missing? He is a great player.”
That about sums up the issues with Porter. The Huskies are likely to start the 6-foot-8 DeAndre Daniels on Porter with a healthy dose of 6-foot-7 Niels Giffey too.
“I think he has the whole game,” Giffey said. “He can post you up, go off the dribble and pull up and shoot the 3. He has a good handle and is the all-around package. You can’t let him settle for something. You got to take everything away.”
The Hoyas have plenty of support for Porter with Markey Starks (12.4 ppg.) and Greg Whittington (12.1 ppg) and are among one of the best defenses in the country as opposing teams are shooting 37.4 percent against and are allowing a shade over 55 points a game.
Ollie’s prescription for that is to run, and to do that UConn is going to have to rebound. UConn managed to out rebound DePaul in an 82-69 win last Saturday, though shooting 60 percent from the floor had a lot to do with it.
“They are the best team in league defensive wise,” Ollie said. “If you don’t get easy buckets on them it will be tough to score. It’s imperative for us to rebound. Once we rebound we can get out on the break, if we are not rebounding, it will be a tough game for us.”
Tonight’s game will be the biggest this year at Gampel Pavilion. It’s the first marquee game being played on campus this year and the first appearance since Feb. 3 against USF and only the third Big East game played this year in Storrs.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to display what we’ve been trying to build on what we have built throughout the year,” Ollie said. “It’s a great team and No. 1 in our league”
For the Huskies, it’s the perfect setting for the biggest game of the season. UConn won’t get another chance.