UConn struggled to find the bottom of the net once again Saturday afternoon in a 65-57 home loss to No. 8 Cincinnati.
In an especially lackluster offensive performance, the Huskies shot 36-percent from the field and logged just 5 assists as a team on the day. UConn didn’t record their first basket until almost eight minutes into the first half.
“Once again we started off real slow. You can’t give Cincinnati that kind of lead,” head coach Kevin Ollie said after the game. “We can’t have five assists catching at 36% and I thought, I have to go back and look, but I thought we had some great looks. We just have to put the ball in the basket.”
The Bearcats’ lead got as large as 19 points, but great defense from the Huskies helped hold Cincinnati to just 38-percent from the field and six points below their season average. Except, none of this matters if UConn continues their ineptitude for scoring points.
“I just thought we did a good job defensively. That was one of our best defensive games but you have to come out with the win,” Ollie said. Like I said when I started, you can’t spot a team 13-0, we’ve got this great crowd in here, you have to give them something to feed off.”
The Huskies found the basket for the first time with 12:26 remaining in the first half, and narrowly avoided the program record for the lowest scoring half (17 points) with a barrage of scoring in the last minute. UConn went to halftime down eleven (32-21).
It seemed that the Bearcats started to pull away in the second half as they got out to a 19-point lead with just eight minutes to play in the contest. UConn was able to cut the lead to six thanks to improved shooting and great defensive play but in the end it just wasn’t enough.
Cincinnati walked off the floor with the eight-point victory handing UConn their first loss at Gampel Pavilion this season. Forward Jacob Evans lead the Bearcats with 19 points and five rebounds. Guard Jalen Adams scored a game-high 20 points with fellow guard Christian Vital pouring in 18 points.
The message of staying positive floated around many of the players following the loss. That positivity is only getting harder to maintain, the Huskies have dropped three-straight and four of the last five games.
“I’m always positive because I know what this team is capable of. I think if we put a full 40 minutes together I like our chances a lot better,” Adams said. “It’s just a little frustrating when you don’t put those full 40 minutes together and we show spurts of a good team and other spurts of a team that isn’t really capable so that’s really frustrating but always positive with our team.”
Mamadou Diarra, starting in place of the injured Isaiah Whaley, echoed Adams’s statement.
“We just try to stay together,” Diarra said. “The season has a lot of games to go so we’re just going to stay together and keep fighting.”
With the loss to Cincinnati the Huskies are now 0-5 against ranked opponents this season and for the most part, the games haven’t been close (Michigan St., Arizona, Wichita St., Villanova, Cincinnati). Vital tried to explain what’s preventing the Huskies from beating ranked teams.
“I think if I knew we would be talking about us winning today instead of losing, but I do know. We play hard, you see we were down 18 and then we obviously showed we have the ability, we cut it down to like 6 or something like that,” Vital said. “We have the guys we have the talent we just have to put it together.”
With rematches on the horizon with both Wichita State and Cincinnati, UConn faithful will have to wait and see if this team can put it together.