No. 11 Cincinnati aims to snap skid vs. UConn

Cincinnati has to try to stop a losing streak for only the second time this season Thursday night when it hosts Connecticut.

The No. 11 Bearcats have dropped their last two outings, a 67-62 decision at Houston on Feb. 15, then fell to No. 13 Wichita State 76-72 at home on Sunday.

Both losses were close, and both had several common denominators, most noticeably, an inability to rebound.

Cincinnati was outrebounded 36-27 by the Cougars but outrebounded the Shockers 27-26. Wichita State, though, shot 52.9 percent from the floor including 8 of 18 from beyond the arc.

“(That) is indicative of our lack of defensive communication and lack of our adherence to the scouting report,” Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. “Combined with, they have a very good team. They made a few hard shots, but we gave them way too many wide-open shots. Defensive breakdowns.”

The Bearcats had won 39 straight home games before the Wichita State loss, their third this season against a team in the AP Top 25 poll.

Cincinnati’s only losing streak occurred when it lost to No. 4 Xavier and then-No. 5 Florida on Dec. 2 and 9, respectively.

“Our defense has to get better,” junior wing Jacob Evans said. “We can get better mentally with being locked in all the time. Especially late in the season, every team is better and every team knows us well. They’ve been watching us all season.”

UConn snapped a two-game skid with an 84-80 victory over East Carolina on Sunday but has dropped seven of its last 10 games overall and four of its last five on the road.

Coach Kevin Ollie adjusted his lineup for the ECU game, utilizing a three-guard set that included Antwoine Anderson who made his first start since Jan. 28.

“Really, it was Antwoine for defensive purposes and we know they were going small,” Ollie said. “They had a lot guards. We didn’t do well starting the game off, but ‘Twoine was able to get loose for some assists and get Jalen (Adams) off the ball, where he’s not seeing five defenders every time at the top of the key trying to make something happen.”

Defense has been a problem for the Huskies, too, of late but they forced nine turnovers against the Pirates and on the offensive end, made 13 of 26 3-pointers and shot 58.2 percent overall.

“We’ve just got to get better defensively, and we’ve got to rebound the ball better,” Ollie said.

Connecticut is shooting a combined 49 percent in its last four games following a 65-57 loss to the Bearcats earlier this month.

Junior guard Jalen Adams scored 20 points with four assists in that contest but the Huskies made only 36.4 percent of their shots in the loss, their fourth in a row to Cincinnati.

Like the Bearcats, the Huskies have yet to beat a top five opponent this season, dropping all six contests against ranked opponents this year and 12 in a row dating back to the 2015-16 season.