After falling to Tulsa Thursday night the Bearcats returned to Fifth Third Arena Saturday afternoon for conference play to face the Connecticut Huskies. Many fans looked at today’s contest as a must win. Would the Bearcats be able to get back on the right track against the Huskies?
The Cincinnati Bearcats improved to 20-8 overall and 10-5 in the AAC on the season after a 65-60 win over the Huskies on Saturday afternoon. Jacob Evans and Gary Clark had 13 points apiece. Troy Caupain led the Bearcats in assists with 8. Octavius Ellis had 10 rebounds. For the game the Bearcats shot 43% from the field and 37% from three.
In the first half the Bearcats came out the gate hot. They led 8-0 early on and the crowd at Fifth Third Arena was rocking with the “white out” theme for fans. The Huskies clawed their way back into the game tying the score at 20, but a block by Caupain in transition put momentum back on the Bearcats side sparking a quick 4-0 run. The Bearcats led by as many as 11 in the first half before heading to the half leading 29-24.
The Bearcats started the second half much like the first scoring points fast. Kevin Johnson and Evans hit back to back treys to push the lead to 9 with 12 minutes remaining. Every time it seemed like the Bearcats were pulling away Kevin Ollie’s team made a run. After pulling within 3 at 52-49 Johnson hit another big three pushing the lead to 6 with about three minutes remaining. Clark had a big block on a play in which he hurt his backside that got the crowd going again. The Huskies pulled to within 6 again, but Evans cleared out everybody at the top of the key and went to work putting a dagger in the Huskies pushing the Bearcats lead back to 8 at 62-54 with 41 seconds left.
Overall the Bearcats defense led them to score points on offense this afternoon. They had seven big time blocks each seemed like they swung momentum back in their favor. If they can continue this kind of dominance defensively they could have a deep tournament run come March.
The Bearcats take on East Carolina next Saturday at Noon on ESPN 2.