Loss Hits Home

STORRS, Conn. – Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun didn't spend much time lamenting the three-pointer that decided the game. His list of concerns with the way the Huskies played was too long and too involved to be overshadowed by a fortunate shot that dropped through the net with 2.5 seconds remaining.

Sean Kilpatrick's three-pointer was the final dagger as Cincinnati (15-4, 5-1 Big East) defeated UConn 70-67 before a crowd of 10,167 at Gampel Pavilion Wednesday night.

But that basket by Kilpatrick (16 points) was one of 11 three-pointers made by the Bearcats, seven of them coming in the first half when it appeared the Huskies (14-4, 4-3) forgot it was permissible to put a hand in the face of a shooter.

So Calhoun might toss and turn as he tries to sleep this one off, but not because of that hoop.

"That happens in basketball," he said.

Kemba Walker, who led the Huskies to the national championship last season, was part of the Gampel crowd. Too bad Calhoun couldn't have put him on the floor to rectify all the issues UConn had in this Big East game. Walker was the guy who always had the answer - and after this game Calhoun said the Charlotte Bobcats rookie had an interesting observation.

"I just had a little talk with Kemba about a couple of players that he played with and he said, ‘It doesn't look like them.' And that's exactly how I feel too," Calhoun said. "It doesn't look like them."

The Huskies didn't even resemble the team that defeated West Virginia and Notre Dame last week.

Calhoun thought the Huskies would have a huge advantage inside against a Cincinnati team that plays four guards. That never happened. The starting frontcourt of Andre Drummond, Alex Oriakhi and DeAndre Daniels combined for six points, 12 rebounds and 3-for-17 shooting.

"When you start the game with a 6-10, 280-pound guy and another guy 6-9, 245 pounds and they can't rebound, or you can't throw them the ball, or they're getting backed down into the post, you've got a problem," Calhoun said. "That was our game plan. And that didn't work out very well for us."

Jeremy Lamb, UConn's leading scorer with a 17.7 average, was held to 14 points. He took 12 shots and made five. He had eight rebounds and five assists. But when Lamb only takes 12 shots, the Huskies probably aren't going to win.

During a timeout with 6:52 left in the first half, Calhoun met Lamb on the floor, put his hand on Lamb's chest and chewed him out for not defending on a three-pointer by JaQuon Parker (12 points).

"I would say it was his total game package," Calhoun said of his disappointment with Lamb. "He's the guy we want to go to. He got 12 shots, which is remarkable that he even got those. He wasn't very good, not on either end of the floor. He's a very, very good basketball player. He's got to play better than that for us to be good."

UConn trailed by 12 in the first half, rallied for a two-point lead in the second half, trailed by eight with just under three minutes to play, and tied the game on a three by Shabazz Napier (career high 27 points) with 9.5 seconds remaining.

"You've got to give Napier credit," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. "He hit a couple of big, big shots at the end of the game."

The Huskies took a 57-55 lead with 6:52 remaining when Lamb was fouled on a three-point attempt and hit all three free throws. But UConn didn't score again until Napier hit a three with 1:25 left. Napier was UConn's offense at the end, scoring the final 10 points for the Huskies.

Napier and Lamb both contested Kilpatrick's winning shot. Napier said he gave Kilpatrick a nudge in the leg and he saw Lamb touch the shooter on the fingers. None of that was enough to derail Kilpatrick.

"Games like that, it sucks because you fight back and you're supposed to win the game," Napier said. "And someone comes down and makes a tough three."

Cincinnati opened up a 12-point lead with two minutes left in the first half. The Bearcats did that by hitting 50 percent (7 of 14) from three-point range and scoring 10 points off seven UConn turnovers. Napier had four of UConn's turnovers and Lamb added two more.

The Huskies struggled to get the ball inside and when they did their big men did not produce. Drummond settled for jumpers, stepping out of the lane and falling away on his shot. He was scoreless in the first 20 minutes, missing all three shots he took. Oriakhi had the only basket in eight field goal attempts between Drummond, Daniels and himself.

"You've got to invest in every single game," said Calhoun, who repeated that theme over and over. "We have 12 games left. You don't get many of these. If you can't invest yourself fully into the game, or you're worrying about a little cough or little small things . . . we don't have time for that. We didn't get a total team investment like we needed to tonight."

With 2.5 seconds left to work with after Kilpatrick's three, the Huskies did get one more shot at tying the game. But this was no Scott Burrell-to-Tate George moment of magic.

Tyler Olander got the ball inbounded to Niels Giffey, who had 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting. Still behind the midcourt line, Giffey launched a good looking shot that would have counted, but it was just slightly off.

Under NCAA rules, Giffey wasn't even credited with another shot. Desperation shots do not count against a player's shooting totals. This one came so close, it was almost difficult to consider it a desperation shot.

"It felt good," Giffey said. "It felt really good. But it happens and you can't win a game on a last shot like that."

As it turns out, the Huskies couldn't tie it either. Giffey's point was still well taken, especially by Calhoun – who will certainly remind his players as soon as possible that he was disappointed in so many aspects of their play.

"There's no disgrace in losing to Cincinnati,' Calhoun said. "That's not what I'm saying. From our vantage point, we only had a couple of guys who I felt were really in touch with the game.

" I'm disappointed, but it's not the season. It's not over."

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