Big One In Big East
Feb. 2, 2009
(AP) - Connecticut is on the verge of being ranked No. 1 for the first time in three years. That likely won't make a difference to Louisville.
The second-ranked Huskies look for a 10th straight victory while trying to hand the surging No. 7 Cardinals their first loss in Big East play as the teams meet Monday night at Freedom Hall.
With current No. 1 Duke losing 70-68 at Wake Forest on Wednesday and third-ranked Pittsburgh falling 67-57 at Villanova the same night, Connecticut (20-1, 9-1) is likely to move into the top spot in the AP Top 25 for the first time since the 2005-06 season.
UConn coach Jim Calhoun, however, is cautious despite posting a pair of easy wins over DePaul and Providence during the week.
"You don't want to be No. 1 for a day," said Calhoun, whose team is primed to be the fourth different school to stake claim to the No. 1 spot in as many weeks. "It's just a number that goes by quickly. But if there are 343 teams playing in the country and at some point in the season, especially 21 games into the season ... it's nice. No more. No less."
The Huskies, though, won't have much time to enjoy it as they head to Louisville (17-3, 8-0), the Big East co-leader which has also won nine in a row - highlighted by a 69-63 win over then-No. 1 Pittsburgh at home on Jan. 17.
Louisville, which shares the conference lead with Marquette, has won two of its last five games against the top-ranked team in the nation.
"Number 1 hasn't worked out so well for teams this year," UConn senior guard A.J. Price said. "We have a tough game (Louisville) coming up Monday, so not too much time to celebrate."
UConn is 4-2 all-time against Louisville and won 69-67 at home in the teams' only meeting last season. The schools have split two games played at Freedom Hall.
The Huskies, who are 10-0 away from home, are coming off their second-highest scoring game of 2008-09. Price had 19 points, Stanley Robinson added 18 and 7-foot-3 Hasheem Thabeet had 15, 11 rebounds and 10 blocks for his first career triple-double in Saturday's 94-61 rout of Providence for UConn, which hasn't lost since opening Big East play with a 74-63 home loss to then-No. 11 Georgetown on Dec. 29.
"We're so happy," said Thabeet, who posted 10 blocks for the third time in his career. "We worked so hard, and have won a lot of games in row. We're just trying to stay together as much as possible. We're just happy right now."
Price, who is averaging 19.2 points in his last five games overall, had 20 in last season's win over Louisville.
Boasting a 12-1 record at Freedom Hall, the Cardinals are wrapping up a three-game homestand, but played uneven in Saturday's 69-63 win over West Virginia.
Jerry Smith scored a season-high 20 points, but the Cardinals had their 20-point halftime lead trimmed to four with 2:16 left before regrouping.
"We fall in love with ourselves too much," said Louisville coach Rick Pitino, whose team overcame a season-high 26 turnovers. "In the long run, it's probably better we had a war down the stretch."
It was another in a list of tight conference wins for Louisville, which also needed overtime to beat then-No. 12 Notre Dame at home two days after winning 61-60 at then-No. 18 Villanova on Jan. 10.
"We've been through World War I, two, three, four and five," Pitino said.
Smith, who averages 7.2 points, was the only Louisville starter to score in double figures Saturday.
Leading scorer Earl Clark, who averages 13.5 points, was held to four against the Mountaineers.