Guards lead UConn over Cincinnati 62-56
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) UConn guards combined to score 46 points, and the Huskies tightened up their defense in the second half to win for the fifth time in six games.
Ryan Boatright led the way with 18 points and eight assists as the defending national champions held off Cincinnati 62-56 on Saturday. Omar Calhoun added 12 points and Rodney Purvis had 11 for the Huskies (9-5, 2-1 American).
Troy Caupain had 14 points to lead Cincinnati (11-4, 2-1), which lost for the first time in five games.
UConn held Cincinnati under 40 percent shooting and just 8 of 26 from the floor (30.8 percent) in the second half.
”Once we get down in the stance and play defense, it’s really hard for anyone to score on us,” said Purvis. ”We believe in our defense.”
Purvis put the Huskies up for good with a jumper that made it 46-45 midway through the second half, and UConn held the Bearcats to just nine points over the last 9:33.
This was the seventh consecutive game between the programs decided by seven points or fewer.
”Two weeks ago, we probably wouldn’t have won that game,” Boatright said. ”But we’re getting better every day and we’re starting to win those games.”
The Huskies shot 46 percent from the floor against a Cincinnati team that came into the game ranked seventh in the nation in scoring defense, holding opponents to 37 percent shooting and just 54.1 points per game.
The Bearcats fall to 4-2 under interim head coach Larry Davis. He took over coaching the team last month from Mick Cronin, who was diagnosed with an arterial problem in his brain and is serving in an advisory role for the rest of this season.
Cincinnati, which came in shooting less than 30 percent from 3-point range, went 4 of 8 from behind the arc in the first half, but hit just 2 of 10 3-pointers after intermission.
”We had some pretty solid, open shots and then we didn’t go rebound it, which you’ve got to do because you’re not going to make every open shot,” said Davis.
Both teams used pressure defense early, forcing a combined eight turnovers in the first five minutes. There were 17 giveaways by halftime and each team turned the ball over 15 times during the game.
Cincinnati led by as many as six points in the first half, before steal and layup by Boatright just before the halftime buzzer cut the Bearcat’s lead to 34-30.
The win was the 61st in Kevin Ollie’s career. He’s the fastest to reach the 60-win mark in school history.
”I like where our team is going right now,” Ollie said. ”We just have to keep taking steps forward.”
Cincinnati: Octavius Ellis came into the game ranked third in the conference in blocked shots at 2.5 per game. He blocked six shots on Saturday, giving him 41 for the season.
UConn: UConn’s defense had held their last four opponents to an average of 35.6 percent shooting. Cincinnati is the eighth UConn opponent this year to shoot under 40 percent.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats continue their road trip with a visit to Memphis on Thursday.
UConn: After playing their previous two games in Florida, UConn heads out on the road again, with games at Tulsa on Tuesday and Stanford next Saturday.