Cincy stays in NCAA tourney mix with clutch win, sweep of UConn

Cincinnati Bearcats fans can sleep well knowing their team earned a critical bubble victory — and season sweep — over American Athletic Conference foe Connecticut.

The race in the AAC also got a little clearer, because Cincinnati’s 65-60 conquest of UConn on Saturday put Temple (10-3 in the conference) up two games on everyone in the league except SMU, which stands at 9-4.

Cincinnati entered Saturday as one of the true pick-them-either-way bubble teams in the field. It was in last-four-in or first-four-out territory. Now, Cincinnati sits at 20-8 overall and 10-5 in the league. UConn was projected ahead of Cincinnati by every respectable mock bracket out there, so why wouldn’t you put the Cats in the field now, thanks to this sweep? Mick Cronin’s team now has two road games, against East Carolina and Houston, that will help its standing in the RPI should it win both.

UC has won 20 or more games for six straight seasons. Yeah, Cronin can coach.

What made the win sweet for UC was how it made almost every critical shot it took over the final two minutes. It slammed the door, essentially. The Bearcats shot 43 percent for the game but got big plays from Gary Clark, Octavius Ellis and Troy Caupain as the game wore on.

Huskies freshman Jalen Adams had a career-high 19 points.

UConn has had an up-and-down few days. Saturday’s loss is reasonable, and it doesn’t take away from that big Thursday night home win over SMU. That was critical to keeping UConn comfortably in the field. Because of this loss, UConn is 9-5 in league play and 19-8 overall. It still has to avoid bad losses, lest it get tossed into a bin with 20 other teams that seem destined to be interchangeable by the time Selection Sunday arrives.

Cincy’s Octavius Ellis goes up against UConn’s force in the middle, Amida Brimah. (USATSI)

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