Men's Basketball: UConn holds on against Cincinnati to reach tournament final
MEMPHIS, Tenn. ¬- With UConn trailing Cincinnati 39-32 five minutes into the second half, the Huskies didn't point any fingers. Instead, they mustered a rally led by their defense and squeezed out a 58-56 win over Cincinnati Friday night at the FedExForum in the American Athletic Conference semifinals.
Cincinnati's Sean Kilpatrick missed a game-tying layup in the closing seconds as the rebound was tipped around before the clock expired, sending UConn to the tournament final tomorrow night against Louisville.
Shabazz Napier's 15 points led four Huskies in double figures as UConn outscored Cincinnati 31-25 in the second half to earn the comeback win.
"It was a great victory for UConn and for our program," UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said, "and I told everybody that coaching is overrated. This is a players' game and they matched their intensity and then we brought it up a notch."
The Huskies held Cincinnati to 37.9 percent shooting from the field and managed to defeat the Bearcats despite not reaching the 60-point mark for the second time this season.
DeAndre Daniels scored 14 points, grabbed nine rebounds and added two blocks while Brimah had four blocks to go along with seven boards of his own.
"Amida, DeAndre took it personal," Ollie said. "They wanted to win individual match-ups with a team concept that's how we got back in the game."
The Huskies fell behind due to some poor ball-handling early in the game, as Cincinnati scored 12 points off 11 UConn turnovers in the first half. UConn managed to cut that number to just four in the second half.
Junior guard Ryan Boatright said Ollie "jumped on" the team over the issue in the locker room at halftime.
"[The number of turnovers] changed the shape of the game because they were getting live turnovers," Ollie said. "It was leading to easy buckets and we started being more solid with the basketball, keeping them in front of us and it allowed our defense to stay solid."
Ollie and the Huskies will now get a chance to compete for a conference tournament title after being banned from the postseason by the NCAA last year.
"It feels great, but it started last year, when we couldn't performance in a conference tournament or go to the NCAA Tournament," Ollie said. "Those guys still played for our great university and they stayed loyal to the program and they planted seeds and that's what it's all about, now you're seeing the plant grow but they planted seeds last year."
UConn will look to bounce back from a season sweep - including a 33-point loss on March 8 - to Louisville, who has beaten its opponents by an average of 42.7 points per game in its last three games.
"We're going to come out and play. This is the postseason and that is behind us," Ollie said. "I think we're a better team and of course Louisville is a better team. We're going to face out in the ring and see who comes out but I like my guys and I wouldn't trade them for the world and we're going to play solid and hopefully we come out with the win tomorrow."
Tipoff for the game is schedule for 6 p.m. EST.
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