UConn hardly a match for Cincinnati
STORRS – Nothing new came out of Gampel Pavilion Saturday afternoon.
UConn, for the fifth time this season in five games, lost to a ranked team, this time to No. 8 Cincinnati. Getting shots off before the shot clock expires continues to be a major issue, and the Huskies registered a mere five assists. There’s also no update on the NCAA’s investigation into the program, something which could take a considerable amount of time.
On Saturday, Cincinnati scored the first 13 points of the game and withstood a far-too-little-too-late “rally” by the Huskies to win, 65-57, in front of 9,170. At 11-12, UConn is in danger of missing the NIT for the second straight season. The NCAA Tournament? That is just a dream at this point.
“I think if I knew (how to fix this), we would be talking about us winning instead of losing,” said UConn guard Christian Vital, who had a strong game with 18 points, nine rebounds, and two steals. “We have the guys, we have the talent, we just have to put it all together.”
The Huskies scrapped and pulled within six in the last seconds, but Cincinnati (21-2, 10-0 AAC), despite going without a field goal for nine minutes in one stretch, never seemed in danger. This rivalry has had its heated battles, especially in the AAC Tournament in each of the last three seasons. However, on this day, the Bearcats seemed to be going through the motions (they could’ve won by considerably more) and UConn, sadly, seemed all but hopeless until its last dash effort.
“Once again, we started off real slow,” said Kevin Ollie, whose team didn’t score in the first 7:46. “You can’t give Cincinnati that kind of lead. We had a chance there in the second half. Whenever we tried to get over the hump, they made a play, and that’s what the top teams in the country do.”
“Every game it seems to be an uphill battle,” added UConn guard Jalen Adams. “It seems that some guys come out ready to play and others need time to get their rhythm. It’s just a little frustrating when you don’t put those full 40 minutes together.”
Adams led UConn with 20 points, and, along with Vital, were the only Huskies to score in double figures. Adams was the only starter to notch an assist (four), and Terry Larrier, playing in a mask after facial surgery, could not make a shot, finishing 1-of-8 with two air-balls.
“I have to go back and look, but I thought we had some great looks,” Ollie said. “We just have to put the ball in the basket. We can’t have five assists and shoot 36 percent.”
The Bearcats’ Jacob Evans netted 19 points, while Connecticut native Cane Broome, whose father told The New Haven Register this week that he did not receive an offer from UConn, had 10 points off the bench. Gary Clark, one of the top players in the AAC, only had five points and six rebounds, and basically wasn’t needed.
In a strange development, arguably the most positive person in the building about the UConn program was Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin.
“If they play the same lineup for the month of February and have no injuries, they’re going to be one of the five best teams in the league, “Cronin said. “They just need to be healthy for a month.”
Is that really true? Maybe. But for anyone who has closely witnessed UConn’s last two seasons, it’s hard to believe at this moment. What could go wrong, has gone wrong, and continues to go wrong. Saturday’s game was nothing new.