Cincinnati puts itself in the driver’s seat to an NCAA bid with win at UConn

Cincinnati and UConn always deliver the goods in terms of physical battles. (USATSI)
Cincinnati and UConn always deliver the goods in terms of physical battles. (USATSI)

Maryland wasn’t the only team that added an important résumé victory Thursday night. Sure, Cincinnati’s road win over UConn isn’t as headline-worthy as the Terps’ home one over Iowa, but in terms of scale of difficulty, it was just as hard.

It was probably the Bearcats’ best win of the season. Cincinnati got past UConn 58-57 thanks to a 3-point play by Gary Clark with 12 seconds remaining.

Here’s the hoop and harm, the play that pushed UC over UConn.

Connecticut lost after Sterling Gibbs shook off an open Rodney Purvis and instead drove the lane and missed a contested runner. Amid the scurry for the rebound, Huskies freshman Jalen Adams threw up a desperate fallway from the top off the key that wasn’t even close.

This was a typical Bearcats-Huskies battle, meaning it was ugly, a slog, a rock fight. Mick Cronin doesn’t care how the wins come; he’s never worried about style points. His team won despite only shooting 38 percent. And ironically, even though the game was physical, the refs only called 12 fouls on the Bearcats all night.

UConn coach Kevin Ollie was not pleased as he walked off the floor. To their part, the Huskies committed just 15 fouls. Gibbs led UConn with 14 points. Clark and Farad Cobb each put up 13 for Cincy.

Cronin had some concern for Shaq Thomas, who left the game with a foot injury.

“His foot doesn’t look good, he’s a senior, I’m just worried about him,” Cronin said on TV afterward.

Cronin’s team is on the right track to an NCAA Tournament bid here. Now 16-6, 6-3 in the American Athletic Conference and owning wins over the Huskies and VCU, as long as this group can hold at home against SMU and UConn — games coming at the end of the schedule — it will be in a good spot to make its at-large bid a reality, if that’s even needed. Right now, Cincinnati looks like the second-best team in the conference to SMU, which of course can’t play in the league tourney this season.

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