UConn is known for its amazing performance in the conference tournaments. This game was nothing less than an instant classic, thanks to four extra periods of basketball. UConn finally came out on top, beating the Cincinnati Bearcats 104-97 in 4OT on Friday in Orlando.
It seemed like this game was over in the third overtime as Kevin Johnson hit a 3-pointer with less than a second and a half left to give the Bearcats a three-point lead. It seemed like it was over, finally.
Then this happened.
"I saw them make a 3, I was upset about it, but the least I could do was to get a shot up," freshman Jalen Adams said. "Daniel passed me the ball, and nobody was in front of me, so I shot the ball as quick as I could and I watched it go in. And that was just amazing."
The Huskies would go on to out-score the Bearcats 16-9 in the final overtime to get the victory and move on to the next round of the AAC tournament.
Bearcats coach Mick Cronin was not at all happy with the clock on that final shot to force the fourth overtime.
"In 0.8 you can't catch the ball, take two steps and then shoot it," he said. "You can't catch it, turn, bring it below your waist, and then shoot it with enough force to shoot it 80 feet in 0.8 seconds. The clock didn't start nearly on time. I've already watched it five times. So it's unfortunate that that happened to my kids.
This game was absolutely breathtaking. UConn and Cincinnati fought and battled every second of every minute in regulation, and in every overtime period as well.
Daniel Hamilton led all Huskies scorers on the afternoon with 32 points on a 9-24 clip but did go 12-14 from the free throw line. Hamilton also had 12 rebounds, a team-high, to go with his eight assists. Sterling Gibbs and Rodney Purvis each scored 14 points for Kevin Ollie's team, with forward Shonn Miller adding 10 points as well.
The bench played well for the Huskies, and had to play well with so many extra periods of basketball. Connecticut was also involved in another classic in 2009 when they lost to Syracuse in the Big East tournament in six overtimes.
Jalen Adams, who was the hero of the night, finished with 22 points off the bench on 8-16 from the field to go with eight boards. Adams scored 8 of his 22 points in the fourth and final overtime period. Amida Brimah had 10 points and nine boards on the night off of the bench as well for the Huskies.
"That was amazing," Adams said. "That was the best game, and the longest game."
Bearcats Claw, But Come Up Short
The Bearcats will be waiting very anxiously for Sunday to roll around, as they drop to 22-10. It seems as the Bearcats should get an at-large bid, but you never know who will be in and who will be out. This loss hurts for the Bearcats, and it hurts even more that they were 0.8 seconds away from getting the victory, especially considering coach Cronin felt the clock had started late.
The Bearcats had five players finish in double-figures in the game and also had three players have 10 or more rebounds.
Farad Cobb had 14 points, Octavius Ellis had 13 points and 10 boards, and Gary Clark had 12 points and 12 boards. Coreontae DeBerry had 10 points and six boards off the bench in just 18 minutes of play. The Bearcats only played three players off the bench, combining for 17 points on 7-15 from the field.
Troy Caupain had a game-high 37 points in this epic battle, going 11-30 from the field and 4-9 from beyond the arc. Caupain was 11-12 from the free throw line and had 10 boards, five assists, and three steals in 56 minutes of playing time. Caupain walked away from this game with a lesson learned, as did all the Bearcats players.
"The game's never over until it's over. Until one team wins," Caupain said. "But we thought the game was over too early and he hit a shot that put it into another overtime, which let us know that the game wasn't over and we had to fight another round, another battle. I wouldn't say that we gave up. We fought to the finish. The game ended how it did."
The Bearcats led 36-27 at halftime, but UConn used a 16-2 run to take a 6-point lead after Miller hit two free throws with 11 minutes left in regulation time. It was a battle from then on. Caupain hit two free throws with 35 seconds left to tie the game.
Amazingly, the first overtime ended with the score tied at 67 a piece. Connecticut shot an amazing 91 percent from the free throw line, but the Bearcats had more rebounds, steals, and blocks than the Huskies. Both teams finished with identical three-point percentages, as they both shot 10-26 to finish at 38.5 percent on the game. The two teams combined for just 21 turnovers on the afternoon, which is remarkable for a game that lasted four overtimes.
The Road Ahead
Cincinnati will wait anxiously for the next 36 hours as they await Selection Sunday to see if they crack the field or not. The Bearcats should get an at-large bid, but this year has been so unpredictable and the committee always makes some decisions that tend to surprise a lot of people. Mick Cronin and his team will be on edge for the next 36-48 hours, to say the least.
As for UConn, they have to turn right around and get back on the same court in less than 24 hours from game-time on Friday. UConn will battle top-seeded Temple in the semifinals of the AAC tournament on Saturday afternoon. The winner of the UConn-Temple game will head to the AAC Final on Sunday to battle the winner of Tulane (12-21) and Memphis (18-14).