Connecticut recognizes that the depth in its backcourt has taken a big hit with Ryan Boatright sidelined. It certainly will be tested by Cincinnati's talented guard play.
Likely without Boatright again, the 13th-ranked Huskies look to remain unbeaten at home when they face the Bearcats on Wednesday night.
Connecticut has rebounded from consecutive losses with two straight wins, including a 67-53 victory at Notre Dame on Saturday. The day before, the Huskies (14-3, 4-2 Big East) announced that Boatright would be unavailable during a continued NCAA investigation.
The freshman point guard was suspended the first six games of the season for an infraction that involved accepting a plane ticket last year while he was playing AAU basketball.
The school, in a statement, said the latest development "arises from additional information provided by the NCAA that pertains to conditions and events that predate the university's relationship with Boatright.''
On Tuesday, coach Jim Calhoun had no update on the situation, leaving Boatright's status for Wednesday in doubt.
In 10 games, Boatright averaged 10.2 points, 3.5 assists and 3.1 rebounds in 26.4 minutes. His absence increases the burden on Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier, each of whom played 40 minutes Saturday.
Napier scored 16 points while Lamb finished with six points and seven assists. The Huskies overcame a slow start to shoot 56.0 percent in the second half while limiting the Irish to 1 of 15 from 3-point range.
"We were energized tonight," Calhoun said. "We had a pretty emotional talk. But it is about us. It is not about anyone but us and we can't control the world but we can control what we do."
Connecticut, which is 10-0 at home, will be tested by Cincinnati's backcourt, which has given a new look to the Bearcats.
Cincinnati (14-4, 4-1) has won its last two, beating then-No. 11 Georgetown 68-64 on Jan. 9 before defeating Villanova 82-78 on Saturday. The Bearcats, second in the Big East in scoring defense, held Villanova to 28.1 percent shooting in the second half and forced 17 turnovers.
Dion Dixon scored 17 of his 22 points in the first half and Sean Kilpatrick added 14.
"You take a team like that's best shot, and you are able to keep going, keep pushing and get the win," said Yancy Gates, who had 16 points and nine rebounds.
Gates shot 7 of 11 from the field in his best game since returning from a six-game suspension stemming from his role in a December brawl with Xavier.
His suspension, along with forwards Cheikh Mbobj and Octavius Ellis, turned the Bearcats into a speedier, more guard-orientated offense, led by Dixon, who scored 44 points in two games last week to earn conference player of the week honors.
Gates said he's fine with a smaller role of cleaning up plays and grabbing rebounds.
"Especially from early in the season and every time I touched the ball someone was digging or someone was coming over to double," Gates said. "Now, I just sit back and play my position and they are so worried about the guards driving and making threes that once I do touch it down there, it is a one-on-one."
Connecticut has won two straight against Cincinnati, including a 69-58 victory in the NCAA tournament last season, but Calhoun said this is a very different Bearcats team.
"We've had very physical battles with them, but they're an open team now ... and it's a different approach now," he said.
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