Well, that sucked.
After a solid first half performance, UConn went ice cold in the second half as the stifling Cincinnati defense lived up to its lofty reputation. UConn went more than six minutes without scoring a basket between the 10 and 4 minute mark, and during that time the Huskies frankly couldn't hit a free throw either. Meanwhile, Cincinnati clawed their way back and ultimately took the lead after trailing for most of the game, and though UConn had a couple of chances to tie or take the lead on late threes, this one ultimately wasn't meant to be.
With the loss, No. 22 UConn can probably kiss its chances of winning the inaugural American conference regular season championship goodbye. No. 7 Cincinnati is now a perfect 11-0 in the conference with a two-game lead over second-place Louisville, and UConn falls to a discouraging 5-4 record in conference and several tough games left to close out the season. Cincinnati is also now riding a 15-game winning streak and may have a chance to climb further up the polls depending on how things shake out this weekend.
Now, before we overreact, it's important to remember that UConn played this one without DeAndre Daniels, so the fact that the Huskies held with the No. 7 team in the country for as long as they did should be looked at as an encouraging sign. Also, even if UConn doesn't come anywhere near winning the regular season title, winning the conference tournament would be just as good, and at this point I think it's safe to say that the Huskies are good enough to contend for that title, especially once Daniels is back in the lineup.
The main takeaway I have from this one is that Sean Kilpatrick is an absolute beast. We've known this for years, obviously, but tonight Kilpatrick was just awesome. He had 26 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists, which were game high totals in all three categories, and he also hit some huge shots down the stretch and was consistently the best player on the court. I seriously wonder sometimes why he doesn't get more national recognition, because it seems like he's been a difference maker for Cincinnati for years now.
Beyond just Kilpatrick, UConn also had trouble with Justin Jackson, who had 15 points, 6 rebounds and at least a dozen mean faces, and Ge'Lawn Guyn had a well-rounded line of 7 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists of his own.
Probably the main reason why UConn lost besides their inability to beat the Cincinnati defense in the second half was their three point shooting. Normally UConn is one of the best three point shooting teams in the country, but tonight the Huskies only went 5-for-21 from behind the arc, and Shabazz Napier was an abysmal 2-for-12.
The fact that Napier finished with 16 points despite missing 10 threes tells you what kind of game this could have been if his shots were falling. If Napier hits three more of those shots, UConn wins this game and Cincinnati probably never even comes back to take the lead. The rest of Napier's line wasn't great either, as he only had 2 rebounds and 3 assists.
UConn did get good performances from Niels Giffey and Lasan Kromah, who along with Napier played for nearly the entire game. Kromah had 13 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals, while Giffey had 10 points and 4 rebounds. Amida Brimah and Ryan Boatright also played most of the game and put up solid numbers, but ultimately the team couldn't get it done once Cincinnati turned up the heat.
The Huskies will be back in action this Sunday when they take on UCF on the road. The Huskies blew out the Knights 84-61 last time they faced off on Jan. 11, and a win to sweep the season series would be just what the doctor ordered after this one. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on ESPN2.