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Game Thread: UConn vs Cincinnati: ESPN 2, 11 am

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The two old foes meet for the first time since last season's AAC conference semifinal

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

**HALFTIME**

Cincy leads 34-30

This half has left me very confused. How the hell have these teams combined for 64 points? What? I do not get it.

How about this for a reason: the teams have combined for 17 TOs and have turned those into 18 points. Cincinnati has shown an ability to knock down shots at a rate that wasn't present all year. The Bearcats shot 13-27 from the field, including 4-8 from three point range. That type of display from deep has propelled them forward in this one. Guard Troy Caupain has been a spark, leading all scorers with 10 points.

As for the Huskies, well, shooting has been a problem. Again. Imagine my surprise. UConn's leading scorer was Omar Calhoun with 7 points. His presence off the bench has been a nice stabilizer, but he needs help. I've enjoyed how Ryan Boatright has made smarter selections on his shot attempts, but it might be time to open it up in the second half. It's Boat time.

This was a brutal stretch for Daniel Hamilton. The freshman has struggled shooting all year and today was no different. He finished 1-5 and had 3 turnovers. Also, Rodney Purvis has simply not shown up to the game today. Rodney, I get that it's early, but c'mon now. He has to better if UConn wants to win this game.

This isn't quite what we expected in terms of points scored, but this is a close game. UConn and Cincy will fight down to the wire, who wants it more.

In a league that is hurting for big time rivalries, UConn gets a chance today to play one of their fiercest enemies this morning when the Cincinnati Bearcats arrive in Hartford. Because the American Athletic Conference is spread all across the country, it is not built to maintain regional rivalries that UConn built over it's lifetime in the Big East. Luckily, when that broke apart, the Bearcats and the Huskies found themselves in the AAC.

Last season, the schools met three times, twice in the regular season and once in the semifinal of the conference tournament. They split the two regular season contests, and UConn was able to sweat out a buzzer beater miss to get past them in the tournament. All three were bitterly fought defensive slugfests.

Expect more of that today. According to the KenPom ranking system, both schools enter today in the top 20 in defensive efficiency. UConn coach Kevin Ollie has built a lockdown defense around the hounding pressing nature of Ryan Boatright and has unleashed Amida Brimah. Brimah, in particular, has flourished this season. As his game matures, he has found a way to challenge shots and intimidate in the paint while still maintaining a fundamental rebounding position. As he learns more about defense, his game will only improve.

As for the Bearcats, toughness is in their DNA much the way it is with the Huskies. Unfortunately, they are without their head coach Mick Cronin, who is recovering from a medical issue. It was announced he will be out for the year. I know we like to poke fun at Cronin for his petulance on the sideline, but the man is a very good basketball coach and a great foil for UConn. Get well soon Mick, these games are not the same without you.

UConn enters playing perhaps their best ball of the season. Their two game road swing in Florida proved to be quite successful. On the 3rd, the Huskies came back from a double digit second half deficit to beat the Gators. A few days later, they went into Tampa Bay and blew out Central Florida. The Huskies showed a new dimension to their team, actually winning big games and blowing out bad teams. It was a pleasure to see. Particularly, the continued strong play from Rodney Purvis was nice. Purvis scored 11 points against the Gators, including three 3 pointers in the second half during the comeback. I keep saying it, but the rise of Omar Calhoun has lit a fire under this team. He has scored in double figures in 2 of his last 4 games, providing another three point threat and another ball handler to a team that badly needs both.

Get ready for a battle today Husky fans. UConn (8-5,1-1 AAC) and Cincy (11-3, 2-0 AAC) are two programs that have no love lost, and play a taxing physical style that is not conducive to pretty hoops. But aesthetics do not matter. This is about who can throw the biggest punch and who can take the biggest punch. I hope you all are ready.

Follow me on Twitter @ElanDeCarlo for updates and check back here at halftime and after the final whistle