UConn and Ryan Boatright host Cincinnati tonight in Hartford. /AP Photo.
STORRS, Conn. -- The stretch run begins for the UConn men's basketball team when it hosts Cincinnati tonight at the XL Center, its final game in Hartford this season with the final two home games coming at Gampel Pavilion.
UConn (17-7, 7-5 Big East) is coming off a disappointing 69-61 loss to Villanova on Saturday and will play a Cincinnati team that is 19-7 and 7-6 in the Big East that is struggling losing three of their past four games including a loss last Friday to Georgetown.
The Huskies will play Cincinnati twice in the next nine days and will face a team that is of similar style and build, with the three-guard lineup of Cashemre Wright, Sean Kilpatrick and Jaquan Parker the top three scorers for the Bearcats at 13.3, 18.0 and 10.9 points per game.
UConn coach Kevin Ollie is wary of the trio heading into tonight's game.
a spot shooter and and can also take it off the dribble. Kilpatrick is very good and Parker is one of the keys too, he's a gritty and tough defender and can knock down 3s and penetrate."
"Dribble penetration is the key and keeping them out of the lane," Ollie then ended the analysis by getting off the Bearcats guards completely. He got on the subject of rebounding, something the Huskies didn't do against Villanova. The Huskies are coming of a game where they surrendered 20 offensive boards and were beaten on the boards 41-25.
Ollie made a quick segue into his topic of interest -- rebounding.
"It all comes down to rebounding," Ollie said. "Hopefully, we can rebound better than we showed against Villanova."
The Huskies' rebounding woes are well known and they have at times done a terrific job, such as a win over Syracuse. But, the physical play comes and goes and they couldn't keep the bigger, quicker, faster and more aggressive Wildcats off the boards. Starting forwards Tyler Olander and DeAndre Daniels each corralled only four rebounds on Saturday.
Leading scorer Shabazz Napier is trying to take the pressure off his teammates.
"It was too much pressure put on all the big guys just to rebound," Napier said. "I think when you put too much on certain people, it weighs you down and they don’t play the way they can play because they’re so worried about rebounds. We want (Olander) to score and play good defense and we want him to rebound, but we kind of stressed it too much and I think it weighed him down a little bit and it weighed DeAndre down a little bit.”
The Huskies are also looking for a bounce back game from Napier and Ryan Boatright, who combined for six points in the loss, down from 30 plus. Defenses have keyed on Napier and Boatright all season long, but none as effective as Villanova. Cincinnati is going to try the same sort of things. Ollie wants the duo to fight through it.
"They have to play basketball," Ollie said of his starting guards. "(Villanova) wasn't the first team that focused on the guards. They have to improve...we got to rebound better to get them out in transition. They have to pick and choose their spots and use their teammates. "
Cincinnati is much like UConn with a soft inside game. The leading rebounder is Titus Rubles at 5.8 points per game and tonight's game will come down to a couple of things, which team can rebound the ball, and who can get their guards off.
Gameday linksBoatright plays to turn it around against Cincinnati (CT Post)
Boatright, Napier know they need to improve (Hartford Courant)
Stretch run (Journal Inquirer)
Huskies brace for game against Cincinnati (NH Register)