(18) Connectictut (5-0) vs. Indiana (5-0)
Friday, November 22, 7:30 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Lucas Gulotta, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Madison Square Garden (18,200) -- New York, New York. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: UConn 3-0, IU 4-0. Away Record: UConn 0-0, IU 0-0. Neutral Record: UConn 2-0, IU 1-0. Conference Record: UConn 0-0, IU 0-0. Series Record: Connecticut leads, 5-3.
GAME NOTES: Two teams will try to avoid their first loss of the 2013-14 season as the Indiana Hoosiers and No. 18 Connecticut Huskies collide in the championship game of the 2K Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden.
Indiana improved to 5-0 on Thursday as it coasted past Washington to a 90-74 decision. Coach Tom Crean's squad picked up wins over Chicago State, LIU Brooklyn, Samford and Stony Brook prior to arriving in New York, with the Blackbirds being the only opponent to challenge the Hoosiers for a full 40 minutes. Indiana's size and athleticism has been the engine to its success as it has outrebounded its opponents by an average of 19.2 boards per game and has converted 54.7 percent of its field goal attempts from inside the 3-point line.
Connecticut began its season with a one-point win over Maryland at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn before three consecutive routs of Yale, Detroit and Boston at home. Coach Kevin Ollie's team once again had a little trouble on a neutral floor on Thursday, but held off Boston College to pick up a 72-70 victory over the Eagles to remain perfect. The Huskies have been one of the most impressive offensive teams in the nation as they have knocked down 47.8 percent of their 3-point field goal attempts and assisted 72 of their 140 total makes from the field.
This will be the ninth meeting in history between Indiana and UConn. The Huskies own a 5-3 all-time series lead heading into Friday's action.
UConn has five players with double-digit scoring averages. Shabazz Napier is pacing the team across the board with 14.8 points, 8.4 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 1.4 steals per game. DeAndre Daniels is the Huskies' top forward at 13.2 ppg, while Amida Brimah is an enforcer in the paint with 18 blocks through his first 77 minutes of collegiate basketball. UConn has the ability to spread the floor due to Niels Giffey and Omar Calhoun, who have combined to drain 22 shots from beyond the arc. Ryan Boatright is an exceptional point guard and plays very well alongside Napier in the backcourt. The Huskies are scoring 81.6 points per game, but have only averaged one more rebound than their opponents.
The Hoosiers continued their interior dominance on Thursday as they used a 50-29 edge in rebounds along with a 54-42 advantage in points in the paint to put the Huskies away. Freshman forward Troy Williams had a stellar performance with 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field and eight rebounds. Yogi Ferrell chipped in 20 points and five assists while Noah Vonleh added 18 points and came up just one rebound shy of a double-double. Will Sheehey contributed 16 points and five assists in the decision. Ferrell is the leading scorer on the campaign with 19.4 ppg. Indiana is netting 94 ppg as a unit, despite converting only 29.1 percent of its field goal attempts. The Hoosiers are averaging just under 40 free-throw attempts per contest.
UConn's critics have predicted it would struggle against opponents with superior size, since Napier is the team's top rebounder out of the backcourt. The Huskies will need to continue to knock down shots with great efficiency to survive an opponent as powerful as Indiana. They had an off-night from 3-point range (3-of-14) on Thursday, so it will be interesting to see if they can bounce back against a tougher foe to win the tournament title.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Connecticut 78, Indiana 75
11/22 10:34:59 ET