SYRACUSE, New York (Ticker) -- A solid effort against Connecticut will result in an extra day of rest for Syracuse.
Gerry McNamara scored 24 points as Syracuse pulled away for a 67-56 victory over eighth-ranked Connecticut that clinched a first-round bye in the upcoming Big East tournament.
Syracuse (21-6, 11-5 Big East) won its fifth straight game, and it could pay off later this week at Madison Square Garden. No team has won the Big East tournament without the first-round bye.
"Getting the bye is nice. We're going to try to use the time in New York to get better," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "I think we can get better."
Connecticut moved to within 46-44 on a pair of free throws by Denham Brown midway through the second half. But freshman Demetris Nichols sank a 3-pointer and Craig Forth added a jumper to give the Orangemen a seven-point lead.
UConn (24-6, 12-4), which was locked into the No. 2 seed, got no closer than five points the rest of the way.
Of greater concern for the Huskies is the status of star center Emeka Okafor, who continues to be bothered by back problems and had just two points in 32 minutes. Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun refused to use that as an excuse.
"If all we are is Emeka Okafor, we should cancel our (NCAA Tournament) bid right now," Calhoun said. "I want someone to look at him and find out what the (heck) is going on. He was incredibly immobile today."
Freshman Charlie Villanueva scored 13 points and Ben Gordon added 11 and six assists for the Huskies, who had a five-game winning streak snapped.
Connecticut routed the Orangemen, 84-56, on February 2, but McNamara insisted that was not a major motivation.
"We just wanted to win, to finish up the way we finished up is very impressive," said McNamara, who was 4-of-10 from 3-point range. "We got the ball to the right guys today and Hakim (Warrick) made some great plays."
Warrick has 19 points and Forth added 14 and 13 rebounds for the defending national champion Orangemen, who are peaking at the right time.
"The way we are playing says a lot about this team," Warrick said. "We're a pretty confident team right now."
McNamara made 7-of-19 shots. he had been 4-of-33 from the floor in his career against the Huskies.