UConn didn’t get off to the start they wanted in conference play, losing to Houston and SMU in their first two AAC games. The Huskies atoned for the first of those losses last night, steamrolling the Cougars 80-43 in game that wasn’t even as close as that score suggests. UConn received a well balanced performance, led as usual by Shabazz Napier (19 points, 7 rebounds) and Ryan Boatright (15 points, 4 assists). Niels Giffey chipped in 10 points, and Phillip Nolan turned in his best game of the season with 10 points and 7 rebounds in 16 minutes off the bench.
The win moves UConn to 17-4 overall and 5-3 in the AAC, leaving them tied for fourth in the conference. UConn has been just outside the Top 25 for a couple weeks now, but this win could be enough to push them back into the rankings. Ohio State will be leaving the Top 25 come Monday, and they will probably be joined by UMass. UConn should slide right into one of those spots, giving the AAC four ranked teams once again.
That adds just a little more intrigue to UConn’s huge showdown at Cincinnati next Thursday. The Bearcats are 20-2 overall and 9-0 in the AAC, and they are ranked 13th in the country and rising. Cincinnati is one of the best defensive teams in the country, and they will be a major test for UConn. The Huskies have to hope that they will have DeAndre Daniels healthy for that game and that the hot shooting from yesterday’s win over Houston will continue.
A win over Cincinnati would be a huge boost to UConn’s tournament resume, and it would leave them in the mix for the inaugural AAC Championship. If they can continue to receive solid performances from the players around Napier and Boatright, there is no reason that UConn can’t beat Cincinnati or anyone else in the AAC. Their performance against Houston showed how good the Huskies can be, and now they need to continue that level of play for the rest of the season.