BATTLE WITH THE BEARCATS
Men's basketball vs. Villanova. JON KULAKOFSKY The Daily Campus
The UConn men's basketball team will host Cincinnati on Thursday night in the final XL Center game of the season. The Huskies enter the game at 17-7 overall and 7-5 in Conference play, while the Bearcats are 19-7 and 7-6.
UConn is coming off a disappointing loss against Villanova last Saturday, 70-61. The dynamic duo of Shabazz Napier (16.3 points per game) and Ryan Boatright (15.4 ppg) struggled, posting a combined six points while committing 10 turnovers. After practice on Wednesday, Kevin Ollie spoke highly of his two leading scorers, especially Boatright.
"He has looked real good in practice," said Ollie. "Everyone is going to have tough games, but you learn from it. He's been through some adversity in his life. I believe that he is going to respond very positively."
UConn will need a strong performance from its guards on Thursday night. Cincinnati also boasts a formidable frontcourt tandem in Sean Kilpatrick (18.0 ppg) and Cashmere Wright (13.3 ppg). Mick Cronin's team has lost three of their last four games, including a 62-55 loss at Georgetown in their previous outing.
"Everyone in the Big East has great guards," said Ollie. "We are going to have to come in and make sure that we contain the dribble, play with effort, play with attitude, and that will allow us to come out on top."
UConn has had a difficult time throughout the season rebounding the basketball, and it proved to be the difference in the Villanova game. UConn's undersized frontcourt was outrebounded 41-25 while allowing 21 offensive rebounds, leading to second chances throughout the evening.
"We have to keep Cincinnati out of the lane," said Ollie. "When it comes down to it, it is all about rebounding. We have to rebound better than we showed at Villanova."
Although UConn is banned from postseason play as a result of their NCAA sanctions pertaining to their APR scores from 2007-2011, the Huskies are still in the running for the Big East regular season title, which the team has made clear is their primary goal for the season.
The Big East standings remain an extremely close race, with UConn currently sitting in fifth place. Marquette is leading the conference with a 10-3 Big East record, followed by Syracuse and Georgetown at 9-3, who are tied at second. Louisville (9-4) and Notre Dame (9-5) are in third and fourth, respectively. The Huskies are 3.5 games behind Marquette and have six games remaining.
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