The stress of play in the Big East Conference is beginning to show on some of its high-profile members.

The eighth-rated Syracuse Orangemen overcame their own tentative play Monday night while handing Connecticut, which just dropped out of the UPI Top 25, a 68-66 loss.The spotlight has been beaming on Connecticut because of a losing streak and Syracuse was drawing heat after its 10-point loss to Providence, which was next-to-last in the conference, over the weekend.

Dave Johnson scored 27 points and Billy Owens contributed 15 points and 16 rebounds to the Orangemen's cause as Syracuse improved to 18-3 overall and 6-3 in the Big East. The Huskies are 12-7 and 3-6.

The score was 33-33 at halftime. Despite scoring only seven field goals in the second half, the Huskies were able to pull within 67-66 on Chris Smith's foul shot with 13 seconds left. Syracuse's LeRon Ellis hit the first of two foul shots with seven seconds left and missed the second but Connecticut failed to get a shot off.

The Huskies were paced by Smith's 25 points and Rod Sellers' 15 points and 10 rebounds. Connecticut struggled from the foul line, hitting only 23 of 37 attempts.

In other games Monday involving ranked teams, No. 1 UNLV routed Utah State 126-83; 13th-rated East Tennessee State stopped Marshall 99-88; No. 17 New Orleans dropped an 84-83 double-overtime decision at Tulane; and 24th-ranked Southwestern Louisiana needed an overtime period to top Sam Houston State 84-79.