A night after elder statesmen Rodney Purvis stepped up and brought Uconn out of the thicket with USF, young-gun Jalen Adams took the baton Friday night and led Uconn to a 74-65 victory over the 3-seeded Cougars.
The late night quarterfinal tipped just before 9:30 p.m. before a raucous, if not voluminous, XL Center crowd. Unlike Thursday’s quick 9-0 start against USF, Uconn quickly found themselves down early before finding their composure. A 26-6 run to close the first half put Uconn up 9 at the break; a lead that would come perilously close to being erased, but one that withstood the balance of the game.
Jalen Adams looking vastly healthier from 24 hours prior, was in another gear leading the Huskies with 23 points and 5 assists. Purvis pitched in with 18, and Vance Jackson came alive with 12 off the bench as Uconn avenged two regular-season losses to Houston, and perhaps bursted the Cougars’ NCAA bubble. Afterwards, a grinning Kevin Ollie acknowledged the offensive improvement, in particular the ball movement, and was proud his team gets another stay of execution in this 2016-17 campaign. “We deserve this after all we’ve been through this season.”
That next test for the Huskies comes in the way of Nick Cronin’s Cincinnati Bearcats, who rolled Tulsa 80-61 in another quarterfinal, earlier Friday evening. The nationally ranked Bearcats (#15) look to make it 3 in a row against the Huskies, which included a lopsided regular season finale drubbing of Uconn at Gampel. The Bearcats will also be seeking vengeance for last year’s heartbreaking loss to Uconn in the AAC Quarters.
Tip off is scheduled for 5:20 p.m. on ESPN2 following the other AAC semi-final of SMU and UCF. Uconn will again be significant underdogs, but a quick word to those thinking about betting against Uconn in March.