Clark, Evans lead Cincinnati over Connecticut
CINCINNATI (AP) — Cincinnati shook off a tough loss. Connecticut couldn’t build on a big win.
Sophomore Gary Clark and freshman Jacob Evans III each scored 13 points as the Bearcats held off the Huskies for a 65-60 American Athletic Conference win on Saturday.
Junior Troy Caupain also reached double figures with 10 points and senior Coreontae DeBerry added eight points for Cincinnati (20-8, 10-5), which never trailed and was tied just once while reaching 20 wins for the sixth consecutive season and 35th in program history.
Clark finished with 11 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season as Cincinnati got back on track after losing, 70-68, in overtime at Tulsa on Thursday.
“We didn’t beat a dead horse the next day,” Caupain said. “We did some things to get ready for Connecticut and got some treatment.”
Bearcats coach Mick Cronin credited his team’s interior defense with the win. The Huskies scored 16 points in the paint while shooting just nine free throws two days after Cincinnati allowed Tulsa to score 36 points in the paint and shoot 20 free throws, making 15.
“Our defensive effort was awesome, except for allowing Jalen Adams to play like an All-American in the second half,” Cronin said. “They missed 37 shots and only got nine defensive rebounds.”
Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie blamed his team’s lack of “mental toughness” for Cincinnati’s interior dominance.
“We’ve got to get tougher,” Ollie said. “They out-rebounded us. I counted 12 missed layups. I could be wrong. It could be higher than that. We just have to get better. We missed a lot of shots. They beat us down (the floor). We didn’t have the post presence we thought we had. We just got out-toughed today.”
Adams scored a season-high 19 points, 17 in the second half, to lead Connecticut (19-8, 9-5). Junior Rodney Purvis added 16 and graduate-student Sterling Gibbs finished with 10 for the Huskies.
Cincinnati went into the game tied with Houston and Tulsa for fourth place in the AAC, a half-game behind No. 21 Southern Methodist and Connecticut. The Huskies had won five of their previous six games, including a 68-62 upset of SMU on Thursday, since being edged by Cincinnati, 58-57, at home on January 28.
The Bearcats led by as many as 14 points, 49-35, with 8:36 left in the game before Adams and Gibbs each sank a 3-pointer to spark a 14-3 run that cut Cincinnati’s lead to 52-49. Johnson stopped the run with a 3-pointer from the right wing, and the Bearcats opened up an eight-point lead before settling for the five-point win.
The Bearcats led, 8-0, less than three minutes into the game, prompting a Huskies timeout, and opened up an 11-point lead, 18-9, with 8:52 left in the first half. Purvis sparked a comeback with a personal 7-0 run, and Connecticut tied the score, 20-20, before the Bearcats rode a 9-4 run to a 29-24 halftime lead.
Caupain credited the sellout crowd of 13,176 for the fast start.
“The crowd got into it ASAP, before the tipoff,” Caupain said. “It gave me goosebumps. When we got off to that early start, they erupted, and when Connecticut made their run, they got louder.”
Cronin believes his team’s eight first-half turnovers were due to his players getting caught up in the emotion. Cincinnati committed just two turnovers in the second half.
“The kids were excited by the sellout crowd and everything,” he said. “Once they settled down, they were OK.”
Connecticut: Amida Brimah, the 7-foot junior center who missed the previous game against Cincinnati with a broken hand, was limited by foul trouble to two points in 10 minutes.
Cincinnati: Senior guard Shaq Thomas, plagued recently with right foot and ankle issues, was limited to two points in eight minutes after suffering a groin injury early in the first half.
Connecticut: Plays at South Florida on Thursday.
Cincinnati: Plays at East Carolina on Saturday.