CINCINNATI – A few thoughts, notes, quotes from UConn’s 63-58 loss to the seventh-ranked Bearcats …
UConn probably left the arena saying, “man, we should’ve won.” And one imagines a lot of teams have left the arena after losing to Cincinnati this year saying that. The Bearcats know how to win close games. They’ve beaten excellent teams like Louisville and Memphis and Pitt in close game, and when they’ve struggled against lesser teams like South Florida, they found a way to win.
They did it again against UConn, which led by 10 points in the first half and was really looking good at that point. Cincy turned it around, got killer defensive stops, they forced UConn to take bad shots. Their top player showed up. Cincinnati just knows how to win. Experienced, tough kids – not unlike UConn, mind you. The Huskies have experienced, tough kids and have won close games against good teams, too. But the record just shows Cincy is a little better, and they were a little better Thursday night.
“All that matters is we find a way to win,” Mick Cronin said. “We can’t let statistics or individual plays affect us. Right now, we have tremendous focus. Everybody is worried about getting the win more than their own stats.”
When they come to Hartford to play on March 1, I would not be shocked if the game were much different. I didn’t come away feeling these teams were very far apart, or that UConn can’t match up with Cincinnati. But at 5-4, they’re not catching the Bearcats (11-0) in the American Athletic Conference regular season race; UConn is playing for second or third place and will have to make its move in Memphis. And the Huskies will probably drop out of the AP Top 25 come Monday, and take a hit in the RPI, even if they win at UCF.
“You learn from every loss. We usually play close games with Cincinnati. A lot of games come down to the last second when we play them.”
Here is the main game story for the Friday Courant.
Kevin Ollie was angry after this game. He did a lot of hollering and was hoarse when he talked to reporters for about 4 minutes after emerging from the locker room. Here are those 4 minutes:
They just played hard. The second half, they came out and established themselves in the paint. Sean Kilpatrick and Justin Jackson, they just took over the game. You know, Kilpatrick got 17 in the second half, 12 rebounds, six assists – just a hell of a performance by him. We couldn’t get him out of the game.
They just took it to us inside, 34 points in the paint and that’s the game. That’s the game. We rebounded with ‘em, but we can’t give up [52.2] percent shooting in the second half. And that’s what good teams do.
They ran, they did whatever they wanted to do. Kilpatrick came out for the shot. They posted up. We didn’t get in front. They did whatever they wanted to do in the second half.
We stopped moving the basketball, plain and simple. We were scoring on every timeout. You watch basketball – after every time out we scored, so they moved the basketball [on set plays]. It wasn’t anything they were doing, we stopped ourselves. We stayed on one side and then we bailed out for three-point shots again. … again.
DeAndre had the back spasms, he couldn’t go. But next man up. It’s a two-point game, so whoever is in the game is going to play hard. But we can’t settle. I thought we settled tonight. You can’t settle, not against a good defensive team like Cincinnati. But I give credit to them, they played hard and they made game-winning plays. That’s what good teams do, they make game-winning plays. They get stops when they need stops, and Kilpatrick steps up.
First half, we were getting to the rim. We were getting on the break, we were scoring. Second half, we started going one on one and we settled for a bunch of three-point shots. We were 5 for 21.”
We can’t settle. It’s a two-point game [with 18 seconds left], we’ve got to the rim. We can’t shoot 30-footers. Hopefully [Shabazz Napier] keeps learning that you’ve got to get to the rim, you’ve got to put the onus on the ref in that situation, you’ve got to make a pass. We had six assists. So we’ve got to play with each other.
But it’s a two-point game, right to the end. I’m proud of their effort. But ‘Bazz going 2-for-12 from the three-point line, that’s not going to happen and it’s still a one-possession game. So we’ve got to get better.
And we missed four free throws. I forgot about the free throws. We missed two on the one-and-one, and we split two of them. So we missed four free throws [down the stretch] and it’s a two-possession game.
[Lasan Kromah] took the ball [to the rim], he was aggressive, he played like I want him to play. Niels [Giffey] played good. Other guys got to step up
We got to go down to Orlando, they’re going to be a desperate team. They’re going to come in and play, they’re going to be different at home than they were at Gampel and we’ve got to be ready to play. We can’t say, ‘oh, we ran over that team.’ No, they’re going to be a different team. [Isaiah] Sykes is going to play well, they’re going to play with effort and we’ve got to get back to playing Connecticut basketball. We’ve got to get back to sharing the basketball.
… The defense was terrible. Second half it was bad. You can’t give up 52 percent. That’s bad. You give up 52 percent, it’s bad. I don’t know [any] other way to sugar-coat it.”
Oscar Robertson and Pete Rose were at the game. Robertson was signaling to Sean Kilpatrick to shoot. How cool is that? Here is Jeff Jacobs’ take on Sean Kilpatrick and the night’s proceedings.
It was the back, not the ankle, that kept DeAndre Daniels out. He experienced another round of spasms just before the game. Here is the UConn notebook for the Friday Courant.
Ollie’s rotation is getting thinner. He played 10 guys, but only Omar Calhoun (12 minutes) got much time off the bench. Only four bench points. Here is your box score.
Here we have some great photos from our Brad Horrigan.
Andre Drummond was planning to come to the game from Detroit, but changed his plans.
Finally getting out of the snow; heading to Orlando in the morning, will check in with you from down there.