Syracuse zone key in finale vs. UConn

February, 13, 2013
2/13/13
11:30
AM ET
(Connecticut hosts No. 6 Syracuse on Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.)

With Syracuse joining the ACC next season, this will be the last Big East meeting between Syracuse and Connecticut. Syracuse has won six of the past seven meetings and has won six straight against unranked Huskies teams. The last time an unranked Connecticut beat Syracuse was Feb. 5, 2007.

The Orange have played a zone defense on 92.6 percent of their opponents’ possessions this season -- that’s the highest percentage of any Division I team. Syracuse allows 0.68 points per play in its zone defense, the lowest in Division I. Overall, Syracuse has the fourth-most efficient defense, allowing just 86 points per 100 possessions.

Facing a zone defense is bad news for the Huskies, who are one of the worst Division I teams against the zone. Connecticut shoots less than 36 percent against zones and ranks 80th in points per play among the 88 teams with at least 300 plays.

Connecticut struggles to get to the free throw line when its opponents play zone. The Huskies have shot free throws on only 5.6 percent of their possessions against zone defenses, which is second worst of the 88 teams with at least 300 plays.

Offensively, Syracuse averages 17.2 transition points per game, which is 15th in the country and second in the Big East. Connecticut is averaging 15.6 transition points per game, fifth-most in the Big East.

Syracuse outscores its opponents by 13.5 points per game in the paint, tied with Maryland for the second-highest differential among schools in the major conferences.

That could pose a problem for Connecticut. The Huskies grab 4.3 fewer rebounds per game than their opponents. Among the 75 schools in major conferences, only Northwestern and South Florida are worse.

With James Southerland back on the court, Syracuse is a much different team. In the six games he missed, the Orange scored 14 fewer points per game than in the games he played.

Southerland’s absence had a large effect on Michael Carter-Williams. He leads the country with 8.5 assists per game, but he was averaging nearly four fewer per game without Southerland.

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