In a season full of ups and downs, the UConn Huskies enter tonight's affair with an 11-7 record, 4-2 in conference play. Winners of their last two, UConn has been playing well of late. They look to make it three in a row, but in their way is a tough Cincinnati Bearcats (14-5, 5-2 AAC) team.
Earlier this month, these two sides met in Hartford. Battling an 11 a.m. tip-off, UConn got off to a rocky start before rallying to win the game late, 62-56. Like all games between UConn and Cincy, it was a defensive struggle. The Huskies got strong production out of their backcourt, with Ryan Boatright, Rodney Purvis and Omar Calhoun each scoring in double figures.
A key difference coming into tonight's game will be UConn's starting lineup. Over the last three games, coach Kevin Ollie has shuffled the team, putting Calhoun in the starting five and bringing Purvis off the bench as a sixth man. The move has shaken up the team, providing a bigger offense boost off the bench. Look for Ollie to run that same lineup out.
This has been a big week for Daniel Hamilton. He was named the American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Week after averaging 8.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg and 5.5 apg in UConn's two victories. At times, Hamilton has looked like a shaky freshman, but it seems like he's putting it all together and figuring out how to truly impact games from every facet.
Coming into the season, UConn and Cincy were the favorites to win the conference. The Huskies have struggled to live up to the hype, but the Bearcats are setting the pace. That they are this competitive and continue to win despite losing head coach Mick Cronin is a testament to the character and caliber of the program. Cincy is currently 5th in Division One, allowing only 54.5 ppg. This is a tough as nails team that will make UConn work for every point tonight.
This is probably our best rivalry game of the year. Let's see if UConn can sweep the season series.
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