GAME NOTES: Two teams looking to make a late season push in the Big East square off at the XL Center, as the Connecticut Huskies play host to the Cincinnati Bearcats on Thursday evening.
Mick Cronin's Bearcats could use a quality win, as they have lost three of their last four games, including last week's 62-55 setback at home to nationally-ranked Georgetown. With the loss to the Hoyas, Cincinnati has fallen to 7-6 in league play and into the lower half of the conference standings.
The Huskies are just above Cincinnati in the standings at 7-5, but they also enter this contest off a loss, dropping a 70-61 decision at home to Villanova this past weekend. Kevin Ollie's first season at the helm in Storrs has come with mixed reviews, as his team seeks some momentum heading down the stretch.
UConn holds a 7-3 series advantage against Cincinnati, but the Bearcats won the last meeting, a 70-67 decision at Gampel Pavilion last year.
The Bearcats erased a 12-point second half deficit against Georgetown with a 20-7 run and actually took a lead late, before falling at home to the Hoyas. JaQuon Parker, who was a big part of the late-game run, led the Bearcats in defeat with 15 points. Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright followed with 12 points apiece.
Cincinnati's success has come for the most part due to stingy defensive play. The Bearcats have limited foes to a mere 58.5 ppg this year, holding them to just .381 shooting overall, including .299 from behind the arc. Offensively, the team is almost strictly reliant on its three-guard set, led by Kilpatrick. The 6-foot-4 junior is one of the top scorers in the Big East at 18.0 ppg (fourth in conference), despite shooting a mediocre .416 from the floor. Wright is next in line at 13.3 ppg, followed by Parker's 11.0 ppg. Forward Titus Rubles is a distant fourth in the scoring column at a meager 6.2 ppg.
Villanova did a remarkable job containing UConn's dynamic duo, as Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright were limited to just six points combined in UConn's loss to the Wildcats last weekend. Freshman Omar Calhoun stepped up and led the Huskies in defeat with 16 points, while sophomore DeAndre Daniels finished with 13. Niels Giffey came off the bench to add 11 points in the loss. Napier knocked down just 1-of-8 shots from the floor and finished with two points, but he did dish out a game-high 10 assists.
Napier has been a much more dangerous offensive weapon on the year and still leads the team in scoring at 16.3 ppg. Boatright is a close second at 15.4 ppg. The two have combined for 89 3-pointers on the year as well as both going over the century mark in assists, combining for 213 of the team's 334 helpers on the season. Calhoun adds to the team's perimeter depth at 11.5 ppg, while Daniels, at 10.7 ppg, represents the team's top frontcourt option.
These two teams are very similarly built. Give the slight edge to UConn in this one due to its success at the XL Center.
Game Date and Time