Well, that was not fun. The University of Connecticut Huskies were soundly beaten tonight, 70-58, at the hands of the Cincinnati Bearcats. The loss drops UConn to 11-8 on the season, in real danger of missing the NCAA Tournament. But that's discussion to be saved for a later date.
This was not a beautiful basketball game. UConn entered today having shot over 45% from the field in their last three games, including 51% from three-point range. Well, tonight, the Huskies went up against one of the nation's best defenses in Cincinnati- who forced UConn into a horrendous offensive performance. They held UConn to 19-58 from the field, just 33%. The Huskies finished 8-26 from three point range. Eight is a large number of makes, considering the fact that Ryan Boatright hit a few circus shots near the end of the contest.
UConn only had three players score in double figures, Boatright with a game high 22, Amida Brimah with 13 and Daniel Hamilton with 11. Brimah was the only UConn player to hit more than half of his shots, all of which came in the paint.
The Bearcats were able to hound UConn's ball handlers into committing 17 turnovers. Coach Larry Davis' squad really turned the pressure on and it paid off. For much of the game, Troy Caupain, Kevin Johnson and Farad Cobb did an exceptional job of getting the ball out of Boatright's hand and forcing Terrence Samuel and Omar Calhoun have to beat them. Five different UConn players, Boatright, Samuel, Hamilton, Amida Brimah and Rodney Purvis, committed at least two turnovers. That type of sloppiness with the ball, coupled with an inept shooting performance, spells doom.
This was always going to be a tough test for the Huskies. The Bearcats always take the court with a lot of aggression , and tonight was no exception in front of an energized crowd at Fifth Third Arena. They got off to a fast start and never really looked back- controlling the pace of the game and rattling Kevin Ollie's squad.
Caupain in particular was giant pest all evening. After converting a three-point play after a layup over Purvis, he got in his face. Purvis' retaliatory shove resulted in double technical fouls. Later, when the game was pretty much decided, Caupain hit a jumper with one second left on the shot clock, then got another technical for taunting, resulting in his ejection from the game. But the message was sent. Between his 20 points, his attitude and his defense, Caupain was easily the most important player on the floor tonight.
At 11-8, this UConn team is in serious danger of needing to win the American Athletic Conference tournament in Hartford in order to clinch a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Coming into the year, that would have seemed like lunacy. Now, it seems like a reality.