Storrs, Conn— Connecticut came out to play and they set the tone of the game early against Cinncinatti.
James Bouknight scored 23 points, including two free throws in overtime, and Connecticut walked off with the win on Sunday, upsetting Cincinnati 72-71 in the American Athletic Conference.
The victory came after nine single-digit losses this year, six of those since Jan. 1 and three in overtime or double overtime.
“It’s a validation for all the efforts and what we are trying to build here and just how competitive we’ve been to win a game like that,” coach Bob Hurley said.
Cincy led for most of the first half and took a 10-point advantage at 28-18 on a trey from downtown on the baseline by Keith Williams.
The Huskies would answer with two straight 3-pointers from Brendan Adams and another by Vital and took their first lead of the game 29-28 on a pair of free throws by Jalen Gaffney.
A jumper by Bouknight capped off a 16-2 run and UConn went into halftime leading 34-30.
“This was just big for our confidence,” Vital said. “That month of January was crazy for us. We’re losing in double OT, OT, late-game situations. So, for us to go beat Tulsa on the road, who was No. 1 in the conference and then finish a close game is just building up our confidence as a team.
Christian Vital added 19 points and Brendan Adams had 16 for the Huskies (13-10, 4-6 American), who have put together back-to-back wins for the first time since December.
In the second half, both teams went back and forth. The game was knotted at 67 after regulation and Scott’s creative bank shot gave the Bearcats a 71-68 lead with just over two minutes remaining in OT.
Tre Scott scored 25 points and Keith Williams chipped in 14 for Cincinnati (15-8, 8-3), which had won five straight games.
The Bearcats had several chances to win the game, including Jarron Cumberland’s jump shot that was ruled to have come just after the buzzer in overtime.
“We probably had more lives than we deserved in regulation and overtime,” Cincinnati coach John Brannen said. “We just didn’t take advantage of them.”
UConn outscored Cincy 5-4 in the extra period, and Jarron Cumberland, who had two chances to win the game at the end of regulation, missed a layup for the win with three seconds remaining and did not get a shot off before the buzzer on the final possession.
This was the 30th meeting between the two schools and the last scheduled as conference rivals. The Huskies will rejoin the Big East at the end of the season. Cincy had won the previous eight meetings between the two teams and 10 of the last 11.
UConn: Connecticut marked the 30th anniversary of Gampel Pavilion honoring Hall-of-Fame coach Jim Calhoun and the members of the 1989-90 “Dream Team” that lost to Duke in the NCAA regional finals.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats host Memphis on Thursday.
UConn: The Huskies travel to Texas for a Wednesday game at SMU