Hartford, CT (SportsNetwork.com) - Shabazz Napier scored a game-high 18 points and the Connecticut Huskies took down the cold-shooting 11th-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats 51-45 in an American Athletic Conference slugfest.
The Bearcats were abysmal on the offensive end, managing just four points in the first 12 minutes of the second half and shooting an ugly 27.1 percent from the floor in suffering through a second straight loss.
The Huskies (23-6, 11-5 AAC) did not shoot much better, but they made up for their mediocre 31.3 percent shooting effort by forcing 20 turnovers.
"It was a great game by us, not offensively but defensively. That's what we hang out hats on," UConn head coach Kevin Ollie said. "And if we're going to be a championship team we're going to have to grind out games like this."
Napier also pulled down 11 rebounds, while Lasan Kromah added nine points for UConn, which has gone 6-1 since losing at Cincinnati last month.
Sean Kilpatrick paced the Bearcats (24-5, 13-3) with 16 points.
"We were trying to limit his touches on the ball and make it uncomfortable for him," Kromah said of defending Kilpatrick.
Despite the loss, Cincinnati is still tied with Louisville atop the league standings with two games to play. The Cardinals lost to Memphis on Saturday.
Easy baskets were tough to come by in a meeting between teams that hold their opponents under 40 percent shooting on the season.
Both teams began 1-for-9 from the floor, and the abnormally slow start was summed up when the usually reliable Napier missed an uncontested fastbreak layup.
Even though they went scoreless over a seven-minute stretch, the Bearcats only trailed by four, 9-5, at the midway point of the first half and ended their drought with a quick 10-0 run.
The Huskies countered with nine straight points, and the back-and-forth continued until UConn took a slim 26-25 lead into the locker room.
Cincy's Titus Rubles scored inside on the opening possession of the second half, but again the Bearcats went the next seven-plus minutes without scoring as they turned the ball over five times on their next six possessions.
UConn's subsequent 9-0 run, capped by a Napier 3-pointer, gave the Huskies a 35-27 advantage, but they too hit a cold streak and couldn't extend the lead much further.
Justin Jackson fed Kilpatrick for a dunk with 12 1/2 minutes remaining, and that was Cincinnati's only other field goal until Ge'Lawn Guyn drained a 3- pointer that cut the deficit to 39-32 with under eight minutes to play.
Despite the lapses in scoring, the Bearcats were as close as 45-42 following two Jackson free throws with 3:14 on the clock, and they trailed by a manageable four, 47-43, inside the final minute.
But Kilpatrick was whistled for a charge along the baseline, and the Huskies went 4-of-6 from the foul line over the final 30 seconds to seal the outcome.
UConn improved to 4-2 against ranked opponents this season ... The Huskies went 7-1 at XL Center this season ... The Huskies had a 20-4 advantage in points off turnovers ... Kilpatrick became only the third player in Cincinnati history with 300 or more career 3-pointers ... UConn will face Rutgers at home and Louisville on the road to close out the regular season ... Cincinnati has a home game against Memphis and a road test at Rutgers remaining.