After climbing its way back into the game against No. 2 Syracuse, UConn was in position for a major upset.
On the road at the Carrier Dome, in front of the largest on-campus crowd of the season, the Huskies pulled within two points with 6:26 left Saturday.
But then Orange guard Scoop Jardine made a 3-pointer from the right corner. On UConn's ensuing possession, forward Tyler Olander turned the ball over, and once again, from right about the same spot, Jardine knocked down another 3 to put an end to the Huskies' comeback.
In a flash, the game slipped away and Syracuse made shots from all over the floor on the way to an 85-67 win in front of 33,430 fans.
"We got it to 63-61 and we got a little careless both offensively and defensively," Connecticut associate head coach George Blaney said. "And then it got away. You can't have a lapse for a couple of minutes."
Despite the loss, UConn (15-9, 5-7 Big East) still had one of its best shooting performances of the season. Four players scored in double digits, with forward Jeremy Lamb scoring a team-high 18 points. As a team, the Huskies shot 23 of 52 (44.2 percent) from the field.
The Orange (25-1, 12-1) simply shot better.
Syracuse finished 32 of 54 (59.3 percent) from the field, and also shot 10 of 16 (62.5 percent) from beyond the arc. But coming off a 21-point loss at Louisville, the Huskies put together a valiant effort. Connecticut has lost six of seven.
"We definitely fought this game. There were plenty of times they hit us and we hit back," Lamb said. "Then in the last 2 minutes they stepped it out, but the game wasn't as bad as the score says."
Stifled from the floor on Wednesday night in an overtime win over Georgetown, Jardine hit three 3-pointers and a layup in the closing minutes to break open the tense game, finishing with a season-high 21 points.
"I was in the right position to make a shot and I did," Jardine, a fifth-year senior, said of his 3 from the right corner that gave the Orange a 66-61 lead with 6:03 left. "And then the second one, I was confident because I just made one. That kind of took them out of what they wanted to do."
"We shot the ball with confidence, and also shot the right shots," he said. "There's times when we had the right shots, but we might rush it because we're getting into it with the crowd. We were settled in with the big crowd because we had one on Wednesday, so we knew what it was."
Jardine was 1 of 7 and missed all three 3s he took against Georgetown. Against the Huskies, he finished 8 of 9 and missed just once from long range. He also had six assists and only one turnover.
"I think offensively, this is the best we've played all year," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "We made a lot of shots. When you make a lot of shots, the game gets a lot easier. If we had shot a normal percentage, we would've gotten beat."
Connnecticut trailed the entire second half but got within two points on a free throw by Olander with 6 1-2 minutes to go before the Orange went on one of their signature runs. They've had a 23-point spurt at North Carolina State and two 19-0 surges this season.
The atmosphere wasn't quite the same because Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun was missing. He sat out his third straight game since taking an indefinite medical leave due to spinal stenosis, a painful condition in his lower back. Blaney once again ran the team in his absence.
It was Blaney's turn to shake his head afterward.
"It's certainly his (Boeheim's) deepest team," Blaney said. "Whether or not it's his best team, the rest of the season will tell you that. I have not seen one of his teams be deeper than they are. When they get in trouble, they can isolate so many different people that can just beat you.
"We got it to 63-61 and we got a little careless both offensively and defensively," Blaney said. "And then it got away. You can't have a lapse for a couple of minutes."
Ryan Boatright had 14 points, Andre Drummond 13, and Shabazz Napier finished with 11 points and seven assists before fouling out late.
Dion Waiters scored 18 points for the Orange, and C.J. Fair finished with 14 points and a career-high 12 rebounds, his second double-double of the season. Kris Joseph had 15 points.
Syracuse had won three of the past four against the Huskies, the only loss coming in overtime in last year's Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden. The Huskies went on to win their third national championship last spring, but the star of that team, Kemba Walker, is an NBA rookie now and the team has struggled despite the return of four starters from last year.
Syracuse also had a spirited effort on the glass, enjoying a 31-29 rebounding edge after Boeheim blasted the team following an abysmal showing against the Hoyas. The Orange had been beaten on the glass a combined 170-109 in four of its previous six games — against Pittsburgh (40-28), Notre Dame (38-25), West Virginia (40-21) and Georgetown (52-35).
This one was a game of swings.
After the Huskies closed to 54-52 on Olander's three-point play midway through the second half, the Orange rallied. Fair hit a baseline jumper, Joseph drained a 3, and Waiters fed Fair for a dunk in a span of just over 2 minutes to boost the lead to 61-52.
Napier and Lamb hit 3-pointers to key a 9-2 spurt that kept the Huskies in it after trailing 43-34 at halftime.
"I like how we gave a tremendous effort," Blaney said. "I was really, really excited about Andre Drummond finally going to the rim like we know he can, and more importantly posting in a good position and deep. We were able to get him the ball a number of times and he was phenomenal."