Connecticut speeds past Cincinnati, 96-91 NCAA TOURNAMENT WEST REGIONAL


SALT LAKE CITY -- Connecticut wanted to stop Cincinnati from pounding the ball inside. The Bearcats wanted to stop the Huskies from getting into their running game.

It took Connecticut awhile to slow down Cincinnati's big men, especially Art Long, but the Bearcats never really slowed down the fast-breaking Huskies in yesterday's NCAA West Regional second-round game at the Huntsman Center.

The result was a deceptively close 96-91 victory for second-seeded Connecticut, which advanced into the Sweet 16 at the Oakland (Calif.) Coliseum. The Huskies will play Thursday against Maryland, which beat Texas in yesterday's second game.

"At the end of the first half of the Big East championship game against Villanova, we had a little run, but we couldn't get things going in the second half," said Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun. "Today we did and it was off to the races in the second half.

"The kids worked their hearts out to dissect what we feared most -- their half-court trapping defense," Calhoun said.

After seeing an early 27-15 lead become a 41-37 deficit with 1:45 left in the first half, the Huskies scored the last seven points of the half.

After the Bearcats tied the game on a three-point shot by LaZelle Durden 11 seconds into the second half, Connecticut gave itself some breathing room by opening up a 59-51 lead.

Cincinnati never got closer than five, as the Huskies continually beat the Bearcats down the court for layups and eventually led by as many as 16.

Long finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds before fouling out. Cincinnati hit 15 of 30 shots from three-point range, but its quick misses often led to easy transition baskets for Connecticut.

"To beat a team like Connecticut, you have to stop their running game and we didn't do that," said Durden, who shared game-high scoring honors with Connecticut's Donny Marshall, with 18 of his 25 points coming on 6-of-13 shooting from three-point range. "They have a lot of speed."

The Huskies also have a bit of a thin skin, having heard the whispers of doubt that surfaced toward the end of the regular season when they lost six hours after being named No. 1 and then lost big to Villanova in the Big East tournament final.

"The only pressure is what we put on ourselves," said Marshall. "And we have very high expectations."

The Huskies also showed they have a high-octane offense. Connecticut shot 35 for 62 (56.5 percent) for the game, including 18 for 27 (66.7) in the second half.

"They're a very good basketball team," Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins said. "They have a very deep bench and they have a lot of people who can hurt you."

The Huskies hurt the Bearcats yesterday by doing what they do best -- running. All the way to Oakland.

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