The Bearcats clearly learned somewhere along the way that you had better make sure Uconn is actually dead; particularly in March. Former Big East foes turned AAC combatants met once again in the AAC semi-finals, as Cincinnati avenged three years of AAC tournament elimination at the hands of the Huskies with a 81-71 slobber-knocker of a win over Uconn. No 60 foot hail mary’s, no Boatwright dagger, no quadruple OT marathon; Cincinnatti imposed their physicality and will and left the Huskies and an electric XL Center looking to next year.
The proper story line is admittedly the refs. The quick whistle from the men in stripes was a theme from the tip; and one decidedly to the Huskies’ disadvantage. Jalen Adams found himself quickly in foul trouble – picking up his 3rd personal foul with 8 minutes left in the first half. The fouls kept mounting as Cincy made their way to the foul line, converting at a high rate (82.6%). Cincy took 46 free throws, almost double Uconn’s 25. The disparity was not lost on the Hartford crowd, who serenaded the refs on their way out of the XL Center.
— Before The Tip (@BeforeTheTip) March 12, 2017
To ignore the referees’ impact would be unfair. But at the end of the day, the better team won, and a lost season for Uconn was finally in the books. Like every team from Storrs, this Husky team turned the switch when post-season play began. Unfortunately, this switch was a dimmer, not a toggle, and the highest setting was not going to be enough to shine.
This senior class will be greatly missed. While certainly not going in the books as an all-time graduating class, Brimah, Facey and Purvis played with incredible heart and never allowed this tumultuous season affect their games. The pain was palpable when Purvis sat on the bench after fouling out, head in hands, coming to terms this was the end of his collegiate career. Brimah, frustrating at times, particularly on the offensive end around the rim, could never once be accused of not leaving it all out on the court.
It was a flawed team to begin with that stumbled mightily out of the gate. The early season-ending injuries of Terry Larrier, Mamadou Diarra and Alterique Gilbert made matters exponentially worse as the season looked to go from disappointing to potentially catastrophic. While no one could possibly declare the 2016-17 campaign a success, (a 6th place finish in a down-year for the AAC) Kevin Ollie, with the help of his seniors, would keep the fight alive in this battered and beaten bunch, as they stayed competitive the rest of the year and again found themselves on the precipice of another March Miracle.
Uconn is staying home from any national tournament and has suffered its first losing season in 30 years. But it could have been worse. The fight is alive. And the future is bright.