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Here’s a pre-game preview of tonight’s American Athletic Conference semifinal game between UConn and Cincinnati:
-- Fourth-seeded UConn (25-7) advanced by beating No. 5Memphis, 72-53, in the quarterfinals. Top-seeded Cincinnati(27-5) defeated No. 9 Central Florida, 61-58. Game time tonight is approximately 9:30 at FedExForum.
-- The two teams split the regular season meetings, each winning low scoring games at home.
-- Cincinnati rode the outstanding play of senior standout Sean Kilpatrick (26 points) to a 63-58 win on Feb. 6 at Fifth Third Arena. The Huskies played without DeAndre Daniels and shot just 39 percent from the field.
In game two, UConn posted a 51-45 decision on March 1 in Hartford. Napier led the way with 18 points and 11 rebounds and the Huskies won despite shooting 31 percent. The Bearcats shot just 27 percent in the defensive struggle.
-- The game pits two All-American candidates in Napier and Kilpatrick, who are both leading their respective teams to an NCAA tournament berth. Napier was named the AAC player of the year on Wednesday.Cincinnaticoach Mick Cronin didn’t care for the choice, believing Kilpatrick should have been the choice.
In the two head-to-head games, Napier averaged 17 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists but made just 9-of-32 field goals againstCincinnati’s tough defense.
Kilpatrick averaged 21 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists but committed 11 turnovers overall and hit 12 of 31 from the field.
-- Don’t expect a high scoring game tonight.
Cincinnati is one of the top defensive teams in the country, holding opponents under 70 points in 29 of 32 games.
UConn also plays a stingy brand of defense.
“They definitely play great defense,” Napier said. “They’re top in the country in defensive field goal percentage.
The biggest thing for us to do is don’t be complacent and don’t be upset that we didn’t get it on the first pass and continue to run the plays. They’re got great players and a great coach, so we’ve got to do a lot of things. We’ve got to play the way we usually play.”
“… We’ve got to stick with what we do best. If it’s not working, we have to understand if we dig down on defense, which is something we do well, we should be fine.”
-- Senior Niels Giffey has become a dangerous offensive weapon this season. He’s shooting 57.5 percent from the field and 52 percent from 3-point range. He’s scored career highs in two of the last three games, including firing in 24 points againstCincinnati.
He’s just happy UConn is winning.
“It’s not all about scoring,” Giffey said. I look at it a little different way if we would have lost these games. I’m always trying to go for the win.”
-- In case you missed it, check out the attached video of Napier talking about tonight’s match-up. He also had some interesting comments about Kilpatrick.
-- Follow me on Twitter @GavinKeefe for regular updates.
-- Come back after the game for a post-game breakdown and video
Today’s American Athletic Conference Championship semifinal doubleheader is underway here at the XL Center in Hartford. A crowd in the 12,000-13,000 range is expected for the UConn-Tulsa game. Tip-off time is 5 p.m.