The Cincinnati Bearcats (10-6, 0-3 Big East) lost to the Connecticut Huskies (14-1, 3-1 Big East) on Saturday afternoon by a score 81-72, handing them their third consecutive Big East loss of the young season.
The game got off to as good of a start as the Bearcats could have hoped, as they found themselves in a back and forth battle with the nation's fifth ranked team. The Bearcats even managed to hang around most of the second half, but a late run by UCONN that was capped off by a Craig Austrie three that put the Huskies up twelve put things out of reach.
Despite the defeat, all was not lost for the Bearcats. A team that has often been questioned for its lack of effort and defensive intensity, the Bearcats made sure they left nothing in the locker room on this night. Until wearing down late in the second half, the Bearcats showed they would not back down to anyone, and had the Huskies on the ropes.
Head Coach Mick Cronin spoke highly of his team's energy after the game, saying none of the loss could be attributed to his team's effort.
"I definitely didn't think it was our effort," said Cronin. "I thought our effort was tremendous. We definitely just got fatigued near the end. The guys gave a great effort; we just could never really get over the hump against them."
While the Bearcats played well for most of the night, so did the Huskies. Connecticut made itself the third consecutive opponent for the Bearcats to shoot exceptionally well from the field. The Huskies shot nearly 60 percent from the field, including a very impressive 8-for-15 from behind the arc.
No matter who you are, beating a Connecticut team at the top of its game is no simple task. Coach Cronin made it clear after the game that he was proud of his team's effort despite the adversity they faced.
"There are no moral victories," said Cronin. But at the end of the day we gave our best effort and it just wasn't enough. Part of that was our opponent."
Deonta Vaughn played well for the Bearcats, scoring 19 points and cashing in 6 assists. He talked after the game about the play of the team as a whole, and what they need to build on from this point forward.
"We made strides to play hard," said Vaughn. "We came out and did what we needed to do. We played hard. We competed and we didn't try to give them anything easy. We tried to make them work hard for every shot."
He continued on, "In the second half they got more offensive rebounds than they did in the first half. We just need to put more work into finishing with a strong second half. We can build on this. We just need to get back to practice and work hard preparing for the game on Wednesday."
Freshman forward Yancy Gates faced his most daunting task of the young season, going up against a future lottery pick in Hasheem Thabeet. Thabeet was held to just 8 points and 3 rebounds, while Gates scored 12 and nabbed 9 rebounds. Gates spoke about his play after the game.
"It was OK but there are still things I could have done better," said Gates. "But I guess for a freshman I did ok."
When asked if playing a competitor of Thabeet's caliber affects his level of play, Gates said he always tries to bring a high level of intensity. He did acknowledge, however, that it's something that lies in the back of his mind.
"You try to bring it every night," said Gates. "But it lies in the back of your mind. You don't try to raise your level just because you're playing them, but it does lie in the back of your mind."
Mike Williams also played very well in the loss, scoring 14 points and corralling 7 rebounds. Deonta Vaughn said after the game that increased performance out of Williams means better play from everyone else.
"It's a lot easier because it's going to start opening up some more opportunities for Yancy down low and for everyone else," said Vaughn. "When Mike is being aggressive it helps out everyone else."
There are no moral victories in college basketball, but the effort the Bearcats showed tonight came about as close as possible.
They will need to continue on with the same intensity throughout the week, however, because a conference matchup with the Rutgers Scarlet Knights lies just around the corner.