Men's Basketball: UConn gets statement win over No. 11 Cincinnati at XL
UConn freshman center Amida Brimah looks to go up for a shot against No. 11 Cincinnati at the XL Center Saturday afternoon. In their last game in Hartford this season, the Huskies beat the Bearcats 51-45, avenging a loss in Ohio on Feb. 6. TROY CALDEIRA/The Daily Campus
HARTFORD - March basketball games are not always pretty, and Saturday's contest at the XL Center was no different, at least on the offensive side of the ball.
UConn and Cincinnati combined to make 28 of 96 shots, and only two players reached double figures in scoring.
Despite making 15 of 48 shots from the field and matching their lowest scoring output of the season, the Huskies picked up one of their biggest wins of the season, a 51-45 victory over the No. 11 Bearcats.
"I told the guys before the game that there was going to be some droughts scoring," head coach Kevin Ollie said, "but you can't have any droughts on the defensive end. We told them it was going to be 90 percent punches and 10 percent plays. Thank God we threw the last punch and we got out with a victory. All in all, it was a great statement victory for us."
Cincinnati was the first team to reach 10 points, but not until Troy Caupain's 3-pointer with 8:49 left in the first half. The Bearcats got out in front by six after that, their largest lead of the game, before Lasan Kromah finally got UConn over 10 points with 7:30 left.
A 3-pointer from Niels Giffey gave UConn the lead back three minutes later, a lead that only lasted 50 seconds.
Giffey's three was UConn's last field goal for over four minutes, but that next shot, a fast-break layup from Shabazz Napier, sent UConn into the half with a 26-25 lead.
Holding on to a one-point lead against one of the nation's top defenses, it was the Huskies' defense that rose to the occasion in the second half.
UConn held Cincinnati to 19 points on 6-for-24 shooting in the second half, and after Bearcats' leading scorer Sean Kilpatrick scored 12 points in the first half, he was held to just six in the second. Kilpatrick had 26 points in the two team's first meeting, a 63-58 Cincinnati win on Feb. 6.
"We had to load up," junior Ryan Boatright said. "We knew Sean was going to come in and everybody knows he's a great scorer. He puts up a lot of shots. Our thing was to load up and make somebody else beat us. We weren't going to let him come out and go for 30 or 26. Somebody else was going to have to beat us because we were going to load the paint."
Ten of UConn's 25 points in the second half came from Napier, who finished the game with 18 points and 11 rebounds. The Huskies are now 6-0 in games where Napier records a double-double.
But Napier was the only Husky to score in double figures. The last time UConn only had one player surpass 10 points was on Nov. 22, 2013, when Napier's 27 lifted the Huskies to a 59-58 win over Indiana.
"We're just kind of in a drought," Napier said. "And if we're in a draught, we can't allow that to hurt us defensively. We're going to have games where we're not going to score a lot of points. We've got to make it up somehow, some way but as long as we play good defense, our shots are going to fall eventually."
Napier's heir apparent, freshman point guard Terrence Samuel, gave the Huskies 16 quality minutes off the bench. Samuel added three points, one assist and one steal in the win, but his most important contribution may have been locking down on Kilpatrick.
"I'm extremely proud of Terrence," Boatright said. "He's been working hard all year. He's getting his opportunity now and he's making the best of it. These last two games he's been tremendous and a big part of our wins."
Next up for UConn is Senior Night at Gampel Pavilion. Napier, Giffey, Kromah, Tyler Olander and Tor Watts will play in Storrs for the last time Wednesday night in the Huskies' final conference game against Rutgers before the Scarlet Knights move to the Big Ten Conference.
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