Cincinnati's Broome is rooting for UConn, except on Saturday

In his hometown heart, Cane Broome roots for UConn basketball.

But not to beat Cincinnati, his current team, of course.

Because of Broome's strong ties to the state — he earned all-state honors at East Hartford High School, played for Jere Quinn at St. Thomas More and began his college career at Sacred Heart in Fairfield — believes it would be good for the American Athletic Conference if the Huskies rise to an elite level again.

"Especially being from Connecticut, I'd love to see them do better," Broome said last fall during AAC media day. "I've got friends and family that are still UConn fans to this day whether I'm playing them or not. As a league, we should have more teams in the tournament. I definitely want UConn to do better, for sure."

Broome, a senior guard, is determined to make life miserable for Huskies Saturday when Cincinnati (13-3, 2-1) hosts UConn (10-6, 1-2) in an AAC game at Fifth Third Arena (8 p.m., ESPN2). The Bearcats are attempting to defend their AAC title this season but have shown signs of being vulnerable, losing at East Carolina on Jan. 5.

Cincinnati is coming off a big win at Tulsa on Thursday thanks in part to Broome, who converted a jumper with under a second left that tied the game and forced overtime. Broome finished with 16 points off the bench.

UConn also is carrying some momentum into the contest after beating SMU 76-64 on Thursday in Storrs before embarking on a two-game road trip.

"We got our first one in conference and now we go to a crazy atmosphere in Cincinnati, so we're just going to try to grind out that game as well," redshirt freshman Sidney Wilson said.

Fifth Third Arena has been a house of pain for the Huskies, who've lost six straight on the road in the series, last winning in 2011. They've dropped seven of the last eight meetings overall, including six straight.

In the past, they've struggled mightily against the physically tough, defensive-minded Bearcats.

"Everybody knows what type of game it's going to be when you go out to play Cincinnati at their home gym," senior Jalen Adams said.

It will be the type of game that will likely require the Huskies to play even better than they did against SMU in order to pull off the upset. They played with great determination and a fighting spirit against the Mustangs. Their best players delivered, too, as Adams, Alterique Gilbert and Christian Vital combined for 51 points.

Thursday was a breakout game of sorts for Broome, who's been battling a prolonged slump. He scored in double figures for only the second time in eight games. He accounted for Cincinnati's last 14 points in regulation at Tulsa and also chipped in six assists.

Entering the season, coach Mick Cronin expected Broome to develop into a reliable scorer during his second season with the Bearcats after transferring from Sacred Heart, where he averaged 23.1 points per game in 2015-16.

But Broome has averaged only 8.6 points while mainly coming off the bench.

Broome will be facing UConn for the fourth time in his college career. He averaged 12.5 points in two games last season.

He'll get another shot at the Huskies on Feb. 24 when Cincinnati visits the XL Center in Hartford and perhaps catch up with Quinn and talk about the good old days at St. Thomas More.

Quinn taught Broome some valuable lessons, on and off the court.

"He's probably the most influential coach I've had this far, because he helped me transition from public basketball to college basketball," Broome said. "He helped me off the court a lot as far as grades and help me focus on what's important in life. I was kind of child when I went to him. I was with him for two years and I lived on campus. He was like a dad to me.

"... He's a great guy. He's the first coach I actually received tough love from because being from Connecticut there's not as many basketball outlets as far as coaches. I'll always played for a coach that was younger.

"When I went to play for him, he was the first old-school coach. That helped me a lot, being able to play with different guys. Going from a guy scoring 20, I could go play on a team that has eight guys that can score 20 and I can score four and have a productive game. He taught me that you don't really have to score to have an impact."

g.keefe@theday.com

UCONN at CINCINNATI

Location: Fifth Third Arena, Cincinnati

Tip: 8 p.m. (ESPN2)

Records: UConn 10-6, 1-2; Cincinnati 13-3, 2-1

Last game: UConn beat SMU, 76-64, Thursday; Cincinnati won at Tulsa, 70-65 (OT), Thursday

Probable starters: Cincinnati, 5-10 sr. guard Justin Jenifer (7.6 pts, 4.1 assists), 6-5 so. guard Keith Williams (11.2 pts) 6-5 jr. guard Jarron Cumberland (16.6 pts, 3.3 rebs), 6-8 r-jr. Forward Trevon Scott (9.9 pts, 6.4 rebs), 6-11 jr. center Nysier Brooks (8.3 pts, 5.4 rebs)

UConn, 6-3 sr. guard Jalen Adams (16.9 pts), 6-0 redshirt so. guard Alterique Gilbert (13.2 pts, 3.8 assists), 6-2 jr. guard Christian Vital (12.7 pts, 5.1 rebs), 6-8 so. forward Tyler Polley (7.8 pts, 2.4 rebs), 6-10 so. forward Josh Carlton (6.9 pts, 4.1 rebs)

Noteworthy: Start of two-game road trip that continues at Tulsa Wednesday. ... Series: Tied at 13-13, with Cincinnati winning the last five including 77-52 last Feb. 22. Huskies without a road win in series since 2011. ... Bearcats AAC defending regular season and tourney champions. ... Top reserve: Sr. guard Cane Broome (8.6 pts) of East Hartford. ... Bearcats losses to Ohio St., Mississippi St., East Carolina. .. Cincy holds foes to 59.6 pts and 39.4 percent from field, forcing an average of 15 turnovers per game. ... Bearcats 9-1 at home, 44-2 since start of 2016-17 season. Huskies 0-1 in true road games, 2-9 last season. ... Cumberland AAC preseason first team pick. ... Hot: UConn 2nd in AAC in 3-point field goal percentage at 35.4. Cold: Tarin Smith (4.7), Polley (4.3) and Carlton (4.0) all averaging below five pts in AAC games. ... UConn 10-1 when leading at half, 0-4 when trailing. ... Adams scored 2, 20, 8, 25, 8, 21 in last six games. ... Dan Hurley former St. Anthony High School teammate of Cincinnati associate head coach Darren Savino, playing together on undefeated 1989 team that won the national championship. ... Family ties: UConn director of basketball operations Eric Youncofski and Cincy asst. coach Greg Youncofski are brothers. ... UConn's Mamadou Diarra and Cincy's Mamoudou Diarra not related.

— Gavin Keefe

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