Only days after a heart-breaking overtime loss to Tulsa, Cincinnati bounced back to earn their 20th win of the season in a defensive showcase. The Bearcats, led by another Gary Clark double-double, controlled the paint and ended up with a much-needed 65-60 victory at Fifth Third Arena over the UConn Huskies.
Cincinnati's defensive performance was impressive all game, with Bearcats defenders getting into passing lanes, contesting shots, blocking shots and finishing off possessions by attacking the boards. It all got started from the opening tip, with Cincinnati leading by as much as 11 points by the eight-minute mark in the first half.
UConn would storm back with the three-ball playing an integral part of their 13-2 run that tied the game at 20 with 4:10 remaining before the break. Cincinnati responded by buckling down on defense and setting up a couple easy shots. Jacob Evans would also knock down a three-pointer as they approached the break. Cincinnati led at half, 29-24.
Cincinnati's defensive play continued into the second half and their offense continued to string together hard-fought buckets. Evans, Clark and Ellis played major roles for the Bearcats as Cincinnati extended their lead to 14 points at the 8:40 mark. It was the largest lead of the game for either team.
Two three-pointers from Jalen Adams and Sterling Gibbs would key a run for UConn, closing the gap to six points at 49-43. Cincinnati would keep hold of the lead the rest of the way, responding to each of UConn's scoring bursts with points of their own.
The Huskies would draw within three with four minutes remaining in the game on a Rodney Purvis three-pointer, but Kevin Johnson would hit one of his two three-pointers, extending the Cincinnati lead to six again.
Despite UConn's best effort, Cincinnati's defense was stifling. Clark had a beautiful block where he cut across the rim to get to a Adams layup attempt, fueling the rowdy Fifth Third Arena crowd.
With 41 seconds remaining and Cincinnati leading 60-54, Evans knocked down a key jumper to push the game out of reach. Even though the Bearcats struggled to hit free throws all game, particularly in the closing minute, Cincinnati finished the game on top, 65-60.
Clark secured another double-double for the Bearcats with 13 points and 11 rebounds. He was also a monster defensively, earning two blocks and a steal. Evans was a major contributor in this one, finishing the game with 13 points on 5-of-9 field goals and 3-of-6 from deep. Troy Caupain scored 10 points for the Bearcats and dished out eight assists. Ellis scored seven points and reeled in 10 rebounds.
The game was won for Cincinnati in the paint, with the Bearcats bringing in 40 rebounds to UConn's 30. The Bearcats also had seven blocks as a team. Cincinnati went 23-of-54 (42.6%) from the field compared to UConn's 22-of-59 (37.3%). Free throw shooting left a lot to be desired though with Cincinnati going 12-of-21 (57.1%) from the line.
Cincinnati earns their 20th win of the season, pushing their overall record to 20-8 with a record of 10-5 in the AAC. They have a week off before a road trip to take on East Carolina next Saturday.