Seniors Rodney Purvis, Kentan Facey and Amida Brimah will remember the Sunday’s Senior Day pre-game ceremonies fondly, but they’ll want to forget the game.
American Athletic Conference rival Cincinnati (27-4, 16-2 The American) routed the UConn men’s basketball team (14-16, 9-9 The American) by a 67-47 score Sunday at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn. for the regular season finale. The Huskies have lost four straight games entering the postseason.
“We have another season starting [this weekend],” UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said after the game, referring to the American Conference Championship in Hartford. “We gotta keep believing and we gotta stay positive.”
Sunday’s outcome was the latest in a season of poor performances against top competition. Cincinnati held UConn to just 31 percent shooting from the field, their worst shooting day of the season, including a 17 percent mark from 3-point range. The Bearcats also claimed 17 offensive rebounds, a significant part of the reason they won so handily Sunday.
“We just gotta get those rebounds. I thought if we rebound, we have a good opportunity to get out in transition,” Ollie said. “We just gotta have the initiative to go and get ‘em.”
Ollie elaborated on the rebound issues.
“We missed some boxouts,” Ollie said. “[Cincinnati forward] Gary Clark just kind of bullied his way in, and got the rebound, where you got to show a little bit of resistance, and put the onuses on the referees to call a foul over the back play. You got to do those better, and you know, I can draw up box out drills all I want to, but it comes down to – you got to want it, have to have a desire.”
The Bearcats pulled down 14 offensive rebounds in the first half, which allowed them to grab control of the game early and quiet the home crowd. Clark was instrumental to their efforts, scoring 12 of Cincinnati’s first 21 points and recording a double-double by halftime.
UConn was not helped Sunday by the absence of freshman forward Vance Jackson, who is currently in the concussion protocol. Additionally, star guard Jalen Adams did not appear to be 100 percent, and Ollie confirmed after the game that Adams was playing hurt.
However, the Huskies did show some life in the first half after falling behind by as many as 14 points. Purvis put together the team’s best stretch of the game, scoring 11 points as the team rolled off a 13-5 run to cut the Bearcats’ lead to six.
“I was just getting some good looks. I was just trying to be super aggressive, get to the basket,” Purvis said of that stretch.
While Purvis played extremely well offensively during that stretch, his fellow senior Facey was having a very difficult time. Facey shot 0-for-7 from the field in the first half, although he did rip down eight rebounds.
The Bearcats led 33-23 at the break, and continued to play at a very high level in the second half. Some buckets from Brimah allowed the Huskies to hang around for a little while, but by the midpoint of the half Cincinnati had built a significant lead, never to be truly whittled down.
Facey scored his first point with UConn trailing by 23 points with 6:46 left. Again, not a Senior Day to be remembered.
Purvis finished with 15 points on 4-for-11 shooting. Facey finished with eight points and 10 boards, while Brimah posted 11 points and six boards.
But again, the season isn’t over. UConn will meet USF Thursday in the first round of the American Championship on their home floor in Hartford. Should they win that, Houston awaits. Should they win that, it’s probably a third try against these same Bearcats.
“The tournament is a new season,” Brimah said. “We gotta come in 0-0, we can’t put our mind on what happened before the season, we just got to take care of business.”