An overwhelming defensive showing from Cincinnati proved far too much for the Huskies to handle, as the No. 11 Bearcats beat a UConn 77-52 on Thursday night. The Huskies struggled to find scoring from anywhere in the road loss, shooting .286 from three, .308 from two, and attempting only 13 free throws.
Without Jalen Adams, who missed the game due to flu-like symptoms, UConn used its 19th unique starting lineup of the season, the most of any team in Division I. Vital opened the scoring with an early three, ensuring it wouldn’t take UConn six minutes to score again in the rematch, but it took nearly five minutes for a non-Vital player to make a shot.
Christian Vital led the team with 15 points on 6-18 shooting, and Terry Larrier was the only other Husky to finish in double figures, scoring 14 with a 4-15 mark. Eric Cobb led the bench in scoring with a last-minute three-pointer.
The teams traded outside jumpers early, each hitting three longballs in the first seven minutes, and supplemented those efforts with quality inside scoring—Cincinnati from their high shooting percentages, and UConn from offensive rebounding.
The Huskies’ hot streak didn’t last forever though, and the Bearcats took their first double-digit lead twelve minutes into the game. UConn didn’t have early foul trouble for seemingly the first game in a long while, but inopportune turnovers and poor ball movement resulted in a Husky offense that couldn’t keep up.
UConn struggled over the rest of the first half, going through an eight and a half-minute stretch where they scored only two points, and Cincinnati continued to extend its lead. The Huskies’ defense struggled without Josh Carlton (whose limited minutes were the result of two fouls) and Isaiah Whaley (whose limited minutes were the result of a coach’s decision), and the Bearcats led 38-25 at the break after going on a 17-4 run.
Coming out flat out of the break, UConn watched the deficit grow to 20 points before the first timeout of the second half. The Huskies missed ten straight attempts from three as the Bearcats maintained a respectable rate from behind the arc, which only exacerbated the issue.
UConn’s best offensive play of the second half may have been on Mick Cronin’s late technical foul (Cincinnati was up by 25 points), where Larrier converted both free throws and the ensuing possession led to an Antwoine Anderson three, one of only three field goal attempts he converted on fifteen attempts. Anderson added nine points for the Huskies and Tyler Polley continued a recent hot streak from distance, making one of his two attempts from three.
The game was never within reach in the second half, and the presence of UConn’s starters on the floor didn’t help decrease the lead even in garbage time.
Gary Clark’s 6-7 shooting was good enough for a game-high 17 points. Cane Broome and Trevor Moore each added at least a dozen points for the Bearcats off the bench. Jacob Evans led all players in assists with five. Cincinnati (24-4, 13-2 AAC) hosts Tulsa at noon on Sunday.
The Huskies fall to 13-15 overall and 6-9 in the American Athletic Conference. UConn will play host to Memphis on Sunday afternoon on ESPN.