UConn backcourt took loss to Villanova to heart

Sophomore Ryan Boatright is his harshest critic.

He severely panned his performance in UConn's loss to Villanova on Saturday, criticizing his dribbling, shooting and "bonehead" decisions. He also didn't like the way he hung his head, something a team leader can't do.

"I never want to play like that again," Boatright said Wednesday. "I was sick (about it)."

He was so upset about his poor play - he scored a season-low four points on 2-for-7 shooting and had five turnovers - that he spent extra time studying the game film. He watched every single play over and over again.

After viewing it alone on Tuesday, he had another film session with coach Kevin Ollie.

"I wasn't Ryan Boatright that game," Boatright said. "I just had a bad game. It can happen to anybody. In basketball, you've got to bounce back and move on."

Boatright also expects a better showing from UConn tonight against Cincinnati (19-7, 7-6) at 7 p.m. at the XL Center in Hartford. Only six games remain for the Huskies (17-7, 7-5).

A season-high 19 turnovers and a huge rebounding deficit (41-25) led to UConn's demise on Saturday. So did an inept offensive output by Boatright and backcourt partner Shabazz Napier who combined for just six points. Their previous low total was 19 in a loss at St. John's on Feb. 6.

Both the Huskies and their backcourt will be out to prove tonight that Saturday's performance was merely an aberration. Ollie wants his team to play hard, play with effort and play with attitude.

"We've just got to make a point, because whenever you come off a loss, you want to show your fans that you've still got it," Napier said.

UConn faces a formidable foe in Cincinnati, which is fueled by gritty defense, relentless rebounding and talented guard trio of senior Cashmere Wright, junior Sean Kilpatrick and senior JaQuon Parker, who combine for 42.2 points per game.

The two teams are similar in that outcome is often determined by backcourt play.

"He's a spot up shooter but he can also take it off the dribble," Ollie said of Wright. "Kilpatrick is very, very good and Parker is one of the keys, too. He's a gritty tough defender and he can knock down 3s and he can penetrate.

"Dribble penetration is going to be key. We've got to keep them out of our lane and hopefully we can stop the ball. Then, when it comes down to it, it's all about rebounding. So, hopefully, we can rebound a little bit better than we did against Villanova."

Kilpatrick, an All-Big East candidate, and Boatright both attended Chris Paul's camp last summer and became friends. He's been Cincinnati's best player this season.

Boatright's play has taken an inconsistent turn in recent weeks. He sandwiched his two worst offensive games around two strong performances. In the last four games, he's shot just 38 percent (13-for-34) and averaged 11.5 points while piling up more turnovers (13) than assists (10).

Ollie has faith that Boatright will play well tonight.

"Everybody is going to have tough games like that," Ollie said. "He learned from it. We brought him in to watch tape. I thought he performed very well in practice. ? That's not the first time he's been through some adversity. So I believe he's going to respond very positively."

For the third straight game, UConn will be without reserve center Enosch Wolf who was suspended indefinitely after his on-campus arrest following a domestic dispute on Feb. 11. Wolf is unlikely to return this season.

"I have no idea," Ollie said when asked if Wolf would return. "He's suspended indefinitely."

g.keefe@theday.com

Cincinnati at UConn

Location: XL Center, Hartford.

Tip-off time: 7 p.m. (ESPN).

Records: Cincinnati 19-7, 7-6; UConn 17-7, 7-5.

Last game: Cincinnati lost to No. 15 Georgetown, 62-55, Friday; UConn lost to Villanova, 70-61, Saturday.

Probable starters: UConn, 6-1 jr. guard Shabazz Napier (16.3 pts. 4.2 rebs, 4.7 assists), 6-0 so. guard Ryan Boatright (15.4 pts, 4.2 assists), 6-5 fr. guard Omar Calhoun (11.5 pts, 3.6 rebs), 6-8 so. forward DeAndre Daniels (10.7 pts, 4.9 rebs), 6-9 jr. forward Tyler Olander (4.5 pts, 3.8 rebs).

Cincinnati, 6-0 sr. guard Cashmere Wright (13.3 pts, 3.4 assists), 6-4 jr. guard Sean Kilpatrick (18.0 pts, 5.4 rebs), 6-3 sr. guard JaQuon Parker (10.9 pts, 4.8 rebs), 6-8 jr. forward Justin Jackson (4.2 pts, 5.4 rebs), 6-10 sr. center Cheikh Mbodj (5.2 pts, 4.7 rebs, 2.5 blks).

Noteworthy: First of two meetings between teams. Rematch is March 2 in Cincy. ... Bearcats lost three of four. ... Series: UConn leads 7-3, losing last meeting 70-67 last season at Gampel Pavilion on Kilpatrick's 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds left. ... Wright recently became Cincy's all-time steals leader. ? Top reserve: forward Titus Rubles (6.2 pts, 5.8 rebs). ... Hot: Kilpatrick averaging 19.6 points and 5.1 rebs in last seven games. Cold: UConn's last two foes grabbed 20 offensive rebounds apiece. ... In BE games, Bearcats 3rd in rebound margin (plus-4) and scoring defense (59.6), 2nd in blocks (5.69). ... UConn second in 3-point field goal percentage (36.6), scoring (70.5) and FT percentage (75.3). ... Final home game at XL Center this season. Huskies are 6-2 there. ... Up next: UConn visits DePaul on Saturday.

- Gavin Keefe

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