Men's Basketball Notebook: Huskies' defense troubles defensive-minded Cincinnati
HARTFORD - It's not often a team can shoot 31 percent from the field and still pull out a victory in college basketball, but the UConn men's basketball team managed to do so Saturday afternoon to upset No. 11 Cincinnati 51-45 at the XL Center and improved to 23-6 overall and 11-5 in the American Athletic Conference.
Defense stymies Bearcats
Points came at a premium on Saturday as both teams combined for only 28 field goals in the contest.
Ryan Boatright's dunk with 7:39 left in the second half gave UConn a 41-32 lead, but it also turned out to be the last basket the Huskies would make on the day.
UConn went on to make 10 free throws after that and held Cincinnati to just 27 percent shooting from the field to preserve the win.
"We went into a little drought and we didn't allow that to deter us on the defensive end," said Shabazz Napier, who had 18 points and 11 rebounds during the game. "Guys were just continuing to work hard and that was exactly what we needed."
The Bearcats' Sean Kilpatrick, who was averaging 20.5 points per game to lead the American heading into the game, was held to 16 points-only four of them in the second half¬-in the contest.
"We just had 10 eyes on [Kilpatrick]," UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. "Lasan [Kromah] did a great job on him then Terrence [Samuel] came in and did a great job on him... We wanted to get the ball out of his hands and make somebody else score."
UConn's defense forced Kilpatrick to cough the ball up seven times and scored 20 points off 20 total Cincinnati turnovers.
"There wasn't going to be a lot of X's and O's this game," Ollie said. "There was going to be a lot of punches thrown and thank God we threw the last punch and we got out with a victory."
The 51 points UConn scored on Saturday were the fewest in a victory since the Huskies topped Villanova on Feb. 11, 2002 by a score of 46-40.
Seniors Napier, Niels Giffey, Tyler Olander and Tor Watts, along with graduate student Lasan Kromah, played their final XL Center game on Saturday.
Napier, who has played 38 games at the XL Center and averaged 10.6 points per game at the venue during his four-year career at UConn, said "it was quite emotional" for him in his last game in Hartford.
"It just hit me," Napier said after the game. "Actually on my last free throw, I smiled... I just thought to myself, 'This is maybe my last shot at XL...' I can't believe how fast four years go by."
On Wednesday, it will be Senior Night for the Huskies and Napier will be one of the honorees prior to the game against Rutgers at Gampel Pavilion. Napier looked back on his career at UConn and pointed to the 2011-2012 season as the one he learned the most in.
"My sophomore year, where nothing went my way, everything was so messed up, I think that was the most understanding year I could ever have," Napier said. "I've enjoyed it so much after it happened, because without that, I would probably still be messing up games and yelling at guys."
"I'm just passionate about winning and I had to learn how to be a leader. That definitely was one of the biggest reasons why I think I learned so much in life at UConn."
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