Published January 19. 2013 4:00AM
Surprising Syracuse, owner of an eight-game winning streak and a perfect Big East Conference record, puts both on the line today when third-ranked UConn plays host to the Orange at the XL Center in Hartford (4 p.m., SNY).
Syracuse (15-1, 3-0) was picked to finish only seventh in the Big East preseason poll, but the Orange have turned into a matchup disaster for most teams, starting four guards — including freshmen Brittney Sykes, Cornelia Fondren and Brianna Butler — and 6-foot-4 senior center Kayla Alexander.
Alexander is averaging 19.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game for Syracuse, including 24 points and 17 rebounds in an 84-80 win over DePaul on Tuesday.
The Orange, who are outrebounding opponents 46.2-36.4, are also fourth in the nation in steals (13.8 per game) while forcing opponents into 23 turnovers per game.
But they haven't faced an opponent like UConn, which has three experienced guards in Caroline Doty, Kelly Faris and Bria Hartley, and brings two talented guards off the bench in Brianna Banks and Moriah Jefferson.
The Huskies (15-1, 3-1) also welcome back 6-4 freshman Breanna Stewart, who missed the last two games with an ankle injury. Stewart averages 14.6 points and a team-best 7.3 rebounds.
Sophomore forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis leads UConn in scoring (16.5) followed by Stewart and 6-5 center Stefanie Dolson (13.1 points, 6.7 rebounds).
"The caliber that they bring to the court, we have to bring," Syracuse's Sykes said about UConn in an interview with the Associated Press. "It's going to be a great matchup. We have to play our game 100 percent.
"Our main goal is to win, but at the same time, our ultimate goal is to make it to the NCAA tournament, winning big games and not backing down from anybody.''