STORRS, Connecticut (Ticker) -- Despite a sluggish start, the 2004-05 season has been a memorable one in more ways than one for Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun.
Denham Brown scored a season-high 21 points and freshman Rudy Gay added 16 as No. 16 Connecticut captured its ninth consecutive conference win with an 88-70 Big East Conference victory over 13th-ranked Syracuse.
In the same season where Calhoun notched his 700th career win, the Huskies (21-6, 13-3 Big East) recovered from a 4-3 start in the league to capture a share of their ninth regular-season title with Boston College, which beat Rutgers, 78-66, Saturday.
"Well, it's been quite a week for us," said Calhoun, who became the 19th Division I coach to capture 700 career wins with a victory over Georgetown on Wednesday. "When the game ended, I recollected back to 1989-90, our first Big East championship, when we clinched the championship, and how special it was.
"This team, coming back from Notre Dame after a really tough loss (on January 30), was 4-3 in the league. And then goes on to win nine straight (league) games, six of those without our leading scorer. I would have to say the two most satisfying championships that I've been involved with, clearly were that first one and then this one."
Losing leading scorer Rashad Anderson right after a 74-66 win at Syracuse on February 7, UConn shook off a loss to North Carolina to capture its last six games, including a victory at then-No. 17 Pittsburgh on February 26.
"At the RAC, at the Carrier Dome, at Pittsburgh, 7-1 on the road, I really couldn't be prouder of them," Calhoun said. "They did a terrific, terrific job."
Entering the game tied with the Orange for most Big East regular-season titles at eight, the Huskies not only established a new league record but allowed Calhoun to best Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who also reached 700 wins in his previous game, by improving to 21-18 all-time against him.
"We really just wanted to get coach Calhoun his 701st win so he could have a little bit of bragging rights over coach Boeheim which I'm sure he'll enjoy now," UConn forward Josh Boone said. "It was also just really big for us, the regular season championship was on the line." With the score tied, 37-37, at halftime, the Huskies jumped out to a 53-43 cushion with 14:36 left behind seven points from Boone and five by Charlie Villanueva.
Boone and Villanueva scored seven points apiece in the second half for the Huskies, who shot 68 percent (15-of-22) after the break to capture their fourth consecutive home win against the Orange (24-6, 11-5). Villanueva finished with nine points and 14 rebounds.
"Charlie was absolutely terrific," Calhoun said. "He sacrificed, at times, his own scoring to get 14 rebounds for us."
Struggling from the field for the fifth straight game, Gerry McNamara had just 12 points on 4-of-16 shooting for Syracuse, including 2-of-10 on 3-pointers.
The junior guard scored just 21 points on 24 percent (8-of-34) shooting in two games against the Huskies, including a miserable 16 percent (3-of-19) clip from 3-point range.
"They've done a great job on him, they've had very good defensive players on him," Boeheim said. "(McNamara's) gotten a lot better at penetrating and making plays, that is one area he has worked very hard on this year. He is getting by people, a couple of times he didn't make good plays, a couple of times guys didn't get the open spots or catch the ball. Our inside guys, at the very best, I can say they leave a lot to be desired in the way they are playing."
A conference player of the year candidate, Hakim Warrick scored 25 points, converting 15-of-22 free throws. Craig Forth and Terrence Roberts, the rest of Syracuse's starting frontline, combined for 14 points on 6-of-15 shooting and 10 rebounds for the Orange, who finished at 32 percent (23-of-71) from the floor and was outrebounded, 46-40.