HARTFORD — It was the type of game that UConn head coach Kevin Ollie warned fans about Wednesday afternoon. Ollie said fans shouldn’t expect a game of style and that it would probably come down to the last possession.
He was right. Pretty much spot on.
Trailing 55-57 with 15 seconds left, Cincinnati’s Gary Clark drove in the lane and made a tough basket, and in the process got fouled by freshman Jalen Adams. Clark made the free throw to put the Bearcats up by one with 10.2 seconds left.
The Huskies had multiple looks at a game-winner, but Sterling Gibbs’ shot in the lane missed. Shonn Miller soared in and grabbed an offensive rebound but his put back didn’t go. The ball was tipped out past the three-point line and Adams’ fade away heave at the buzzer from a few feet behind the line bounced off the rim.
Cincinnati squeaked out a 58-57 win over the Huskies in front of 13,242 fans at the XL Center.
“It was another game…us and Cincinnati…last possession,” Ollie said. “We were 1 for 11 our last shots and we just didn’t do it at the end.”
Both teams struggled down the stretch.
Adams made a layup with 1:44 left put the Huskies up 57-53, ending a 4 minute and 37 seconds drought. Cincinnati got a steal and a layup by Jacob Evans to cut the lead to 57-55 with 1:00 left, ending a drought that lasted 6 minutes and 13 seconds.
UConn missed its next two shots and then Clark made the bucket and free throw to put the Bearcats up for good.
After the game, Ollie was upset with the fact that the refs called a foul on Clark’s shot, but not on Miller’s.
“I was trying to get a penetration and try to get a foul,” Ollie said. “I thought we got fouled but the refs didn’t call it.”
UConn (14-6, 4-3 the American) made one of its last 11 shots.
“We were trying to get good shots,” Ollie said. “We missed a couple but we got to just do a better job trying to execute. We just missed layups. Getting right to the rim and just missing layups.”
Gibbs scored 11 points in the first half and Rodney Purvis scored 10 off the bench, but both combined for five points in the second half.
Daniel Hamilton finished with five points (all in the second half), eight assists and seven rebounds.
“We can’t have our two best players go 2 for 11 (Hamilton) and 5 for 17 (Purvis),” Ollie said. “We’re just not going to win like that.”
The Huskies shot 28 percent (9 of 32) in the second half. Cincinnati shot 39 percent (10 of 26) in the second half. Both teams shot 38 percent for the game.
“We’re still playing good defense,” Ollie said. “They all played good defense. We just got to shoot better. We can’t keep shooting 38 percent. If that’s me drawing up more plays, getting more people in there, whatever I have to do I’m going to have to do it.”
The Huskies opened the game by missing their first five shots as Cincinnati (16-6, 6-3 the American) jumped out to an 8-2 lead just 4:08 into the game. UConn made just one of their first six shots. UConn’s first basket didn’t come until 3:44 into the game when Hamilton found Miller for an alley-oop.
Purvis came off the bench and scored a quick five points to put the Huskies back on top, part of a 7-0 run that ended with another Miller alley-oop dunk.
Gibbs heated up late in the first half. The graduate senior made three threes in the span of a minute to give the Huskies a 29-27. UConn made its last seven shots to end the first half and took a 36-31 lead into the locker room.
After a slow start, UConn managed to finished the first half shooting 50 percent. Cincinnati shot 38 percent.
Both teams committed 14 turnovers for the game. After getting outrebounded 20-13 in the first half, UConn was able to even that battle 36-36 for the game.
The Huskies were outscored 27-21 in the second half. Cincinnati did play some zone defense in the second half, which forced the Huskies into three shot clock violations and a lot of late shot clock situations.
“It’s the matchup zone,” Ollie said. “But they’re going to run that zone. We prepare for the zone. We just didn’t make the plays. We got to get in [our] offense early. So they’re playing the 1-2-2 [press], breaking the press and getting into our offense a little earlier,” Ollie said. “You can’t start it with 18 seconds left [in the shot clock] because it’s just so unconventional. You can’t draw plays for it. Sometimes when the play breaks down you just have to penetrate and then have to make plays for your teammates and we failed to do that a little bit at the end. I credit them for some great defense, too.”