12:00 PM ET, March 8, 2011
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Connecticut has lost six straight Big East tournament games, exiting in its first game the past five years.It's unlikely those streaks will continue Tuesday afternoon.The No. 21 Huskies kick-start the event with a matchup against last-place DePaul at Madison Square Garden.Connecticut (21-9) finished in a three-way tie for ninth place with a 9-9 mark in the powerful conference, meaning it will play in the first game of the five-day tournament.The Huskies have won the tournament six times, most recently in 2004. Since that triumph, they are 1-6 in the event and lost 73-51 to St. John's last season.Connecticut is 5-1 all-time against DePaul (7-23), including an 82-62 road win Jan. 15 behind 31 points from Kemba Walker. The Blue Demons went 1-17 in Big East play for the second straight season after their historic 0-18 mark in 2008-09.Making matters worse for DePaul, it is playing without Cleveland Melvin, out for the season with a sprained left thumb. Melvin, the lone unanimous pick to the Big East all-rookie team, led the Blue Demons with 14.3 points per game.UConn will have its star on the court in Walker, a Bronx native who will likely be playing in his final games in MSG as a college player.Walker, one of the leading candidates for Big East player of the year honors, took part in senior day ceremonies Saturday during a 70-67 loss to then-No. 8 Notre Dame. He's scheduled to graduate this summer and will walk in May at commencement, but the junior guard has not yet said whether he will leave school.He turned in his second-best scoring effort with 34 points, making all 10 free throws."Kemba was unstoppable today," coach Jim Calhoun said. "He was just unstoppable. That's the best he's gotten to the rim in a long, long time."UConn has been outrebounded in its last three games, allowing the Fighting Irish a 32-27 edge."That there were so many opportunities for us, guys looking at the ball and not getting rebounds, greatly hurt us," Calhoun said. "It's only getting worse for us right now."The Huskies have dropped four of five overall, leaving Calhoun one win shy of 300 in Big East play, including the conference tournament."It ends up being a new season for you," he said. "You've seen it in the Big East tournament and you've seen it in the NCAA tournament. Teams get a little bit going, get on a roll, feel good about themselves, good things happen and the next thing you know, they are going on. A couple of our guys hope they can get some new life, to be honest with you."DePaul has actually won a Big East tournament game more recently than Connecticut, an upset of Cincinnati in 2009 following the 0-18 conference campaign. The Blue Demons are 1/3 all-time in tournament play.It's hard to envision DePaul being competitive after Saturday's 107-59 loss at then-No. 12 Syracuse. The Blue Demons became the only Big East team in the last 15 seasons to allow an opponent to shoot over 70 percent, as the Orange finished at 71.4."They came out and played with a lot of spirit, a lot of energy," first-year coach Oliver Purnell said. "They made shots and got away from us early."The winner will face No. 22 Georgetown on Wednesday.
Big East Tournament
|Avg Points Allowed||76.7||66.4|
|Conference||Big East||Big East|