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    UConn Men's Basketball
    Wednesday, April 17, 2024

    UConn's inspired comeback falls short in loss to Cincinnati

    UConn's Alterique Gilbert (3) is stopped by the defense of Cincinnati's Jarron Cumberland (34) as Cane Broome (15) dribbles around him during Sunday's game at the XL Center in Hartford. Cincinnati beat the Huskies 64-60. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

    Hartford — The scene was set for an epic comeback victory.

    UConn emerged from a funk to play inspired basketball Sunday with the 1999 national championship team on hand for the 20th anniversay celebration.

    The XL Center crowd roared as the Huskies raced into the lead with a devastating 16-0 run in the second half.

    American Athletic Conference power Cincinnati was on the ropes.

    But UConn couldn't complete the comeback, resulting in another painful loss, 64-60. The Huskies (13-14, 4-10) have dropped five straight, the longest drought in the program since the 2006-07 season. The Bearcats (23-4, 12-2) won for the seventh straight time in the series,including the last two by a combined six points.

    While UConn's valiant effort was a significant improvement from Thursday's loss at SMU, it wasn't enough to overcome its mistakes and beat a vastly superior opponent, especially without injured leading scorer Jalen Adams.

    "We needed to give a champions effort, because there was going to be one of the many champions that played at UConn, men and women, that were in the house today," coach Dan Hurley said. "We needed to at least show them that we have the heart of a champion today in terms of how we competed."

    Junior Christian Vital, who owned the longest UConn streak of games started (45) until coming off the bench on Sunday, finished with 14 points and seven rebounds while redshirt sophomore Alterique Gilbert had 13 points and five assists in just his second game back from a left shoulder injury. Senior Eric Cobb had nine points and five rebounds in his first start this season.

    UConn looked dead and done trailing 50-35 with nine minutes left. The Huskies' biggest comeback in a win this season is just four points.

    Then, almost out of nowhere, the Huskies took off on a dazzling 16-0 run to take its first lead since 9-7. Gilbert and Vital fueled the surge. Vital's two free throws capped it off and handed UConn a 51-50 edge with 5:03 left.

    "We just got more determined," Hurley said.

    If not for East Hartford's Cane Broome, the Huskies might have won the game. Broome buried two huge 3-pointers in the final 1:28, including an absolute killer with 11.9 seconds remaining.

    With Cincinnati clinging to a 59-58 lead, the Bearcats misfired badly, resulting in an air ball. Sophomore Keith Williams secured the rebound and found Broome, whose deep three beat the shot clock and pushed the edge to four.

    "It's a great feeling," said Broome, who finished with 10 points off the bench. "A shot like that and just being able to win is big for all of us."

    Gilbert answered with a driving layup, but Williams hit two free throws with 4.9 second remaining to ice the big road win.

    The Huskies continue to make mistakes that contribute to their demise.

    They had some costly lapses, especially to start the second half when the Bearcats seized control with a 14-3 run. They missed eight free throws (13-for-21), lost the battle of the boards, 40-30, and allowed 18 second chance points.

    "Frustrating loss," Hurley said. "Credit Cincinnati. They have the culture that we want. They have the character on the court that we want and obviously the physicality. That's what a program looks like that's fully formed and has been together and understand what it is ... about winning."

    Hurley vowed to make changes after what he considered an embarrassing performance at SMU. Cobb and freshman Brendan Adams made their first starts this season. He clearly sent a message to Vital, who spent almost the first seven minutes on the bench before entering the game.

    "There was a variety of reasons why different people didn't start the game," Hurley said. "It was a combination of me not wanting them in there as well as violating the conduct and the manner in which you carry yourself as a member of my program. That's why people were sitting."

    Vital declined to comment about the change. "I just knew I had come in the game and play as hard as I can for my teammates," he said.

    g.keefe@theday.com

    Cincinnati's Cane Broome celebrates after hitting a key 3-pointer in the final seconds of the Bearcats' 64-60 win over UConn on Sunday at the XL Center in Hartford. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
    Cincinnati's Logan Johnson makes a basket as UConn's Eric Cobb (0) defends during the Bearcats' 64-60 win over the Huskies on Sunday in Hartford. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

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