Cincinnati 71, No. 10 Connecticut 69

With 10,409 fans holding their breath and the game on the line,

Lance Stephenson calmly dribbled the ball, lined up his free throw

and made it. Then, he made another.

No freshman nerves there.

Stephenson was fouled with less than a second to play and made

both free throws Wednesday night, rallying Cincinnati to a

breakthrough 71-69 victory over No. 10 Connecticut in a wild Big

East opener for both teams that was settled by the Bearcats’ most

highly regarded recruit in years.

“All I was thinking was let me go to the free-throw line

because I knew I was going to knock them down,” said Stephenson,

who finished 7 of 7 from the line.

Cincinnati (9-3) had lost all five previous games against UConn

(9-3) and watched this one nearly slip away, too. The Bearcats led

by as many as 12 points in the second half, but the Huskies made a

late run and tied it on Kemba Walker’s 3-pointer with 9.4 seconds

to go.

Stephenson dribbled into the lane on the final play and was

fouled by Gavin Edwards a few feet from the basket as the buzzer

sounded. After a review, the officials put seventh-tenths of a

second on the clock, and Stephenson went to the line for his 20th

and 21st points.

Edwards was surprised to draw the whistle on the deciding

play.

“It was a tough call,” Edwards said. “There was a lot going

on on that play. He ran into me. I didn’t come down into his

arm.”

All that UConn could do was hope that time had run out before

the whistle blew. When the clock was reset to 0.7, all the Huskies

could do was hope Stephenson would feel like a freshman in a big

game.

“That’s not an easy spot for any kid to stand up,” Connecticut

coach Jim Calhoun said.

Stephenson, a 60 percent shooter from the line, made them when

they mattered most.

“I was thinking, ‘Lord, let him make this shot,”’ senior guard

Deonta Vaughn said. “It’s a tough situation to be in as a

freshman, but we shoot those types of shots in practice where it’s

a pressure shot.”

Jerome Dyson scored 24 points and Stanley Robinson added 22 as

UConn lost its scoring balance during its first true road game of

the season. The rest of the team went a combined 6 of 27 from the

field.

“Somebody’s got to step up,” Robinson said.

It was a measuring-up game for Cincinnati, which expects to hold

its own in the Big East and get back to the NCAA tournament for the

first time since 2005, when Bob Huggins was still the head coach.

The Huskies came to Cincinnati last January and won by 11 to keep

their record perfect against Cincinnati.

“To beat them for the first time means a lot,” said Vaughn,

who finished with a season-high 17 points. “Everybody was more

focused today. We came in and knew what we had to do to get the

win.”

The Bearcats knew it would come down to their front line. In

Cincinnati’s wins over then-ranked Vanderbilt and Maryland, the

front line dominated the boards. In other games, it got shoved

around. This time, it held its own.

Vaughn, who went through a 3-of-23 shooting slump from behind

the arc, made consecutive 3s that started a 12-2 run and put the

Bearcats ahead 30-18. Vaughn yelled and pumped his fist after the

second 3, showing his confidence was back.

Robinson had a basket and a three-point play during a 9-0 run

that got it down to 30-27 and turned it into a back-and-forth game.

Neither team got into an offensive flow in the half, which ended

with Cincinnati ahead 36-35.

Vaughn hit another 3 during a nine-point run that rebuilt the

lead to 47-37 early in the second half. The Huskies managed only

one basket during the opening 5:26 of the half, going 1 of 9 with

three turnovers during that span.

UConn made its last surge behind Dyson, who scored 10 points

during a spurt that cut it to 67-63 with 2:27 to go.