The UConn men’s basketball team, lost by 20 or more points seven times this season, faces another gargantuan task Thursday night when they travel to the campus of Northern Kentucky to take on No. 11 Cincinnati.
The Bearcats (23-4, 12-2 The American), who beat UConn 65-57 Feb. 3 at Gampel Pavilion in a game that was not as close as the final score would indicate, will likely be playing angrily after a pair of losses last week bounced them not only out of the top five, but the top 10 as well. Before falling to Houston and Wichita State, Mick Cronin’s team had won 16 straight games.
UConn (13-14, 6-8 The American) is fresh off an 84-80 road win over East Carolina on Sunday afternoon, which broke a two-game losing streak and gave the Huskies their second true road win of the season. The Huskies only have four more games before the American Athletic Conference Championship in Orlando: Cincy, a trip to Houston, and Memphis and Temple at Gampel Pavilion.
Leading scorer Jalen Adams had one of his best games of the season against ECU. Adams scored 26 points on 10-for-18 shooting (4-for-8 from 3-point range) and added six assists and five rebounds with only two turnovers. Terry Larrier contributed 20 points and Christian Vital added 16 in the win.
Adams is up to 4.5 assists per game, first on the team, after averaging 6.1 helpers last season. Larrier and Vital have swapped between second-leading and third-leading scorer all season long, and Vital currently has the edge, 14.8-14.0. Vital is also the Huskies’ leading rebounder at 5.2 boards per game.
Cincinnati, which found itself at No. 5 in the AP Rankings a week ago, is down to No. 11 after a pair of two-possession losses to the second and third best teams in the conference. After UConn, they’ll have games against Tulsa and Tulane before a rematch with Wichita State Mar. 4 in Kansas.
The Bearcats have four players averaging double digits in scoring: Jacob Evans, Gary Clark, Kyle Washington and Jarron Cumberland. Evans is the team leader in scoring (13.7 points) and assists (3.3 assists).
The last time these teams met, the Huskies went without a basket for the game’s first eight minutes. UConn finished with a 36 percent shooting mark from the field and just five assists.
Adams led the Huskies that day in points with 20, while Vital added 18. Evans paced the Bearcats with 19 points and five boards.
Round two between these rivals will take place Thursday at BB&T Arena because the Bearcats’ own Fifth Third Arena is undergoing renovations this season. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. on ESPN.