Cincinnati flew into Hartford, took the 30-minute bus ride to Storrs and stole the title of Big East’s Second-Best Team from Connecticut Wednesday.
The Bearcats hung on at Gampel Pavilion, 70-67, after Sean Kilpatrick sunk a kill shot on Connecticut with 2.7 to go. I was sitting 10 feet from where it happened. It was awesome, and it positively froze the frenzied Gampel Pavilion crowd just seconds after Shabazz Napier tied the game, completing a 10-point comeback in less than two minutes for the Huskies.
The win offered more answers about who Cincinnati is, its dynamics, how tough it can be and why it’s as stable a group as you could ask for in wake of what will most certainly go down as college basketball’s ugliest moment of the season.
Yeah, that fight, it needs to be mentioned again. You think I want to get into this? Not really, but it’s legitimate subtext to Cincy’s season. Going to be that way the remainder of the way, through March or April. Fair or not, it’s a prologue to every big game they play. That will diminish as the season goes on, but it merits mention in mid-January because, Wednesday night, Cincinnati earned its Marquee Win (it was the first home loss for Connecticut this season) and biggest moment following that fracas against Xavier more than a month ago.
The players don’t much care about their perception; it’s refreshing to see how light-hearted they are about it. Afterward, the press peppered them with questions about really hitting a stride more than a month away from the fight. The players took all the questions, answered them in full and without a stock, trite tone in their voices. Throughout the game, UConn fans taunted the Bearcats, particularly Yancy Gates, who threw the sport’s more infamous sucker punch. Gates didn’t ignore it.