Men's Basketball: Huskies seek higher AAC seed after shaky games
Published: Thursday, February 27, 2014
Updated: Thursday, February 27, 2014 23:02
At worst, the UConn men’s basketball team will be the fifth seed when the American Athletic Conference Tournament begins on March 12.
With three games left, however, the Huskies (22-6, 10-5 American) have a chance to make the leap to third, potentially higher, and make the path to the conference title more favorable.
To do that, UConn will need to mark the last XL Center game of the season with a win over No. 11 Cincinnati when the two teams square off Saturday afternoon.
The Huskies’ chances of a top-three finish were nearly shattered Wednesday night. UConn entered halftime down by six at USF. The Huskies shot 29.2 percent in the first half, and Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright failed to make a shot, missing their first eight combined.
Led by 15 points from Napier and 11 from Boatright, UConn recovered in the second half, shooting 14 of 25 from the field en route to a 61-56 win.
Napier now has 1,737 points in his UConn career, trailing former teammate Kemba Walker by 46 points for seventh on the all-time scoring list.
The senior captain will be trying not to replicate his first game against the Bearcats this season. In UConn’s 63-58 loss at the Fifth Third Bank Arena on Feb. 6, Napier shot 5 of 19 — 2 of 12 from behind the 3-point line — and grabbed two rebounds. It was his second-worst shooting performance of the season and matched his lowest rebounding total.
Napier is still the second-leading scorer in the American at 17.8 points per game. He also ranks 13th in rebounds (5.9) and assists (5.5) per game.
The only player ahead of Napier in scoring in the conference is Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick.
Kilpatrick killed the Huskies when the two teams met in early February. While playing all 40 minutes, the senior guard shot 8 of 15, finishing with 26 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.
In six career games against the Huskies, Kilpatrick is averaging 15.5 points per game, only failing to reach double digits in UConn’s win over the Bearcats in the second round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
The Bearcats (24-4, 13-2) have been one of the big surprises in the American this season, currently sitting in first place while the preseason favorites – UConn, Louisville and Memphis – are playing catch up.
Cincinnati has not played since last Saturday, when Russ Smith’s buzzer beater gave Louisville a shocking 58-57 win in Ohio.
Saturday’s game tips off at noon and will air on ESPN.