UConn’s conference opener was almost pure disappointment, as the Huskies lost badly on the road against Cincinnati to fall to 9-4 on the year. Freshman James Bouknight and Brendan Adams led the scoring charge, with 10 and 11, respectively. No other Husky hit double-digit scoring.
The Bearcats completely outplayed UConn, with turnovers, missed defensive assignments, and overall uninspired play dooming the team from the start.
The Huskies found themselves in a 12-2 hole before they could blink. UConn’s characteristically sloppy ball handling was compounded today by uncharacteristically lax defense. The Bearcats’ defensive pressure had the Husky offense looking lost.
Cincinnati led by as much as 17, and nothing went right anywhere across those first 20 minutes. Head Coach Dan Hurley could only hang his head as the team kept finding new and creative ways to turn the ball over or give up baskets. It’s not hyperbole to suggest it was one of the worst halves of basketball in the last decade; a truly listless performance up and down the roster.
Two plays summarized the debacle.
First, Cincinnati’s Jarron Cumberland got the ball on the break with only Josh Carlton waiting. UConn’s big did a great job of not fouling, corraled the rebound, and then promptly sailed his outlet pass out of bounds in a miscommunication with Vital.
Just two plays later, UConn forced Cinci deep into the shot clock, only for the usually reliable Akok Akok to cede inside position for an offensive rebound and dunk.
Oh and that doesn’t even include the 10-second violation. The Huskies went into the locker room trailing big, 35-19.
The Bearcat lead quickly ballooned to 19, with UConn’s three-quarter press unable to create turnovers. On the offensive end, there was too much side-to-side ball movement instead of the north-south passing needed to unlock Cinci’s matchup zone.
The Huskies at times seemed on the cusp of a run, but were never able to string together consecutive positive plays. UConn trimmed the deficit to 15 with an 8-0 run, but it was too little too late. The Huskies opened conference play with a loss for the fourth straight year, and this one was an unexpected stinker after the positive start to the season in non-conference play.
UConn hasn’t won since Cincinnati since 2011 and has lost eight straight to the Bearcats. They also haven’t won a conference opener since the 2015-2016 season and have only won twice in AAC openers all-time.
Dan Hurley’s squad looks to right the ship on Saturday with a road tilt against South Florida. The game will be on ESPNU at 2 p.m. on January 4th.