Wow, quite the finish.
UConn fought back in a battle to defeat number 13 Cincinnati 58-56 to win the season series 2 games to 1 and, more importantly, clinch a birth in the AAC championship.
The Huskies got off to a hot start, sparked by DeAndre Daniels, and Shabazz Napier, but Cincinnati fought back to take a 31-27 halftime lead. There were so many times throughout this game that it seemed like it was not our night and that the Bearcats were slowly but surely going to sneak away with this one, but as they have done all year, this squad showed their resiliency. UConn got back to what they do best, locking down teams, and held Cincinnati to 31.3% percent shooting in the second half. Kevin Ollie always stresses that defense is what the team "hangs their hat on" and it proved true today as it allowed the Huskies to remain in the game despite some lengthy offensive lapses.
Shabazz had 15 points today, and didn't make a three, but he trusted his teammates and did all the small things that win a ballgame. It has been consistent talk among Husky fans, as of late, that the fate of this team will lie in the hands of our role players stepping up. Our role players are certainly stepping up. DeAndre Daniels finished with 14 points and 9 rebounds, and frequently broke our droughts. Ryan Boatright had 13 points including two HUGE threes in the second half, and Niels Giffey, the Berlin Bullseye, stayed hot and finished with 11 points, hitting 3 of his 4 three pointers.
This game showed how well rounded we are. Four players in double figures, DeAndre having 9 rebounds and Amida having 7, and 4 blocks. Amida was a game changer today. When he entered the game in the second half, he totally changed our defense and, thus, the result of this game.
After this win it is hard not to think of the similarities between this year's team and 2011's. We're making a run in the conference tourney, have an All-American leading our team, and that player's mom is the face of our fan base. If you have been on the fence, it's time to believe Husky fans. We may not match up with Louisville well, but after the last two days it's tough to doubt this team. Even Omar had an assist tonight! This is a team with a superhero-like leader and a supporting cast that is coming together at the right time. After our senior night win against Rutgers, Kevin Ollie said that the team would be back in Gampel in early April to raise a banner and not to jinx anything, but his belief is contagious.
Tomorrow is huge. Tomorrow we find out what kind of team we have. Are we the team that just got throttled by Louisville? Or are we a team that is going to scrap for every inch, every possession and band together to do whatever it takes to win? It's an exciting time to be a Husky fan, folks. Kevin Ollie has a chance in his second year to win a conference championship (in his first chance) and finally outduel hall of famer Rick Pitino. They may be playing their best basketball of the year, but so are we. Let's get it.