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Bearcats have final say

By Gavin Keefe

Publication: The Day

Published January 19. 2012 4:00AM
Jessica Hill/AP Photo
Cincinnati's Sean Kilpatrick delivers the game-winning 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds remaining over UConn's Jeremy Lamb (3) and Shabazz Napier, giving the Bearcats a 70-67 win over the No. 13 Huskies on Wednesday night at Gampel Pavilion.

Storrs - UConn coach Jim Calhoun ran into Kemba Walker in the Gampel Pavilion hallway shortly after a disheartening defeat Wednesday.

"I just had a talk with Kemba about a couple of players that he played with and he said it doesn't look like them," Calhoun said. "That's exactly how I feel. It doesn't look like them."

Walker is now in the NBA, playing for the Charlotte Bobcats.

The Huskies are missing more than just Walker, their leading man in last year's national championship run. They're missing consistency in all areas.

Lapses cost No. 13 UConn dearly in a Big East thriller as Cincinnati's Sean Kilpatrick buried a 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds remaining to hand UConn its first home loss, 70-67.

Kilpatrick's game-winning shot came just seven seconds after UConn sophomore Shabazz Napier's deep 3-pointer tied the game. The Bearcats converted 11 3-pointers overall.

Napier and sophomore Jeremy Lamb tried to challenge Kilpatrick's shot. Kilpatrick finished with a team-high 16 points.

"I was super surprised when he made that last three," Napier said. "I was shocked because I gave him a little nudge in his legs… And Jeremy said he touched his fingers."

UConn (14-4, 4-3) had one more chance but sophomore Niels Giffey's three-quarter court length shot bounced off the rim. The entertaining game had five ties and 17 lead changes.

"What a wild ending," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. "It's a big win for us but you've got to win these kinds of games if you're going to compete for the Big East championship."

The Bearcats, who've won 10 of their last 11, are in second place while the Huskies slip back in the Big East pack.

"When it came down to it, they were tougher than we were," Calhoun said.

Napier finished with a career-high 27 points. He buried three 3-pointers in the final 1:28 to help UConn rally from a 65-57 deficit. Cincinnati (15-4, 5-1) opened the door by sinking only two of its last six free throws.

But the Huskies were far too reckless on both ends of the floor and failed to use their size advantage.

Their starting frontcourt of Andre Drummond, Alex Oriakhi and DeAndre Daniels combined for just six points and 12 rebounds while Cincinnati's Yancy Gates had 13 points and 12 rebounds. They also had just 10 second-chance points against a team that mainly plays four guards.

"When we started the game with a 6-10, 280 pound guy and another guy 6-9, 245 pounds and they can't rebound and we can't throw them the ball … you've got a problem," Calhoun said. "That was our game plan and that didn't work out very well for us."

Still, the Huskies overcame a 12-point first-half deficit by improving their perimeter defense and increasing their intensity. Trailing 42-33 at intermission, they climbed back into the game with a 13-2 run. Drummond's dunk forged a 50-50 tie with 11:53 left.

But the Bearcats answered, taking a 65-57 lead on Kilpatrick's open 3-pointer with 2:53 remaining.

The Huskies showed some fight to come back again. They needed another offensive option, though, as Napier scored his team's last 10 points.

A bigger, stronger Kilpatrick frustrated Lamb who worked hard for every one of his 14 points. Lamb took only 12 shots. Not enough for a player considered a Big East player of the year candidate.

Something else is missing, too.

And that's consistency.

The Huskies played well in the previous two games, beating West Virginia and winning at Notre Dame, but took a step backward Wednesday.

"You've got to invest in every single game," Calhoun said. "We have 12 games left. … I've always believed that if you invest yourself in everything that you do in life you're going to be just fine.

"We didn't get a total team investment tonight the way we needed."

UConn played without top reserve Ryan Boatright who continues to sit out while the NCAA reviews his eligibility.

g.keefe@theday.com

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