The Huskies have proven that they can play with anyone in the country. And for the first half Thursday night that's exactly what they did against the No. 7 Bearcats, even without one of their most dynamic players, DeAndre Daniels, who was sidelined with back spasms.
Leading 31-26 at the break, UConn looked like the poised veteran club Kevin Ollie had hoped to take into February and March in advance of the conference and NCAA tournaments. But the Cincinnati outscored UConn 37-27 over the final 20 minutes and pulled away late to notch their 22nd win of the season and move to 11-0 in the AAC.
The Huskies dropped to 17-5 (5-4).
"They did whatever they wanted to do in the second half," Ollie said ... "Justin Jackson and Kilpatrick took over the game. It was a heck of a performance by (Kilpatrick). We couldn't get him out of the game. They just took it to us in the second half."
Specifically, Jackson was good for 15 points and six boards while Kilpatrick went off to the tune of 26 points and 15 rebounds.
UConn, meanwhile, were ice cold from the perimeter. Senior guard Shabazz Napier was just 2 for 12 from behind the arc, including a missed three late in the game that could have given the Huskies the lead despite their second-half struggles.
"We can't shoot 30-footers, and hopefully he keeps learning," Ollie said. "You have to get to the rim and put it on the ref in that situation. You have to make a pass."
Despite the result, UConn was in the game up till the final seconds. But almost doesn't count in the AAC and after working their way back into the top 25 the Huskies will likely be on the outside looking when the polls are released next week.
"We stopped moving the basketball," Ollie said. "We stopped ourselves. We stayed on one side and we bailed out for three-point shots. Again. We settled. Again. We can't settle, not against a good defensive team like Cincinnati. They made game-winning plays, and that's what good teams do. They make game-winning plays."
Still, there were bright spots. UConn led the seventh-ranked team 31-21 on the road late in the first half, and were up 46-41 midway through the second half. But they couldn't stave off a Bearcats run that swung the momentum and eventually the score.
"We just didn't do the right things at the end," Napier said, "we didn't play good basketball tonight and we came out with a loss."
Next up: UConn heads south to face Central Florida Saturday night.