Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin did his best to light a fire in his team midway through the second half Saturday during a 51-45 loss at Connecticut, but even Cronin's outburst questioning an official's call wasn't enough to get the offensively challenged Bearcats on track.
Cronin went toe-to-toe and nose-to-nose with official Ted Valentine and had to be restrained by several of his players when he didn't like a call from Valentine (video below). He was fortunate not to be assessed even a technical foul.
No. 11 Cincinnati obviously has little concern about making the NCAA tournament. That is a given at this point, but the Bearcats have larger concerns before March Madness arrives.
Cincinnati (24-5, 13-3) was held to its second lowest point total of the season and lost consecutive games for the first time since mid-December. .Not a good outing for a team trying to out-duel defending national champion Louisville for the inaugural regular season championship in the American Athletic Conference.
Cincinnati came into the game tied atop the conference standings with Louisville, but the Cardinals hold the tiebreaker advantage.
The second half was brutal from the perspective of fans who like plenty of scoring in their basketball. The Bearcats scored on a layup by Titus Rubles 15 seconds into the half and then didn't score again for nearly 8 minutes. No wonder Cronin was so annoyed.
Cincinnati scored just four points in the first 12 minutes of the half but played well enough defensively to keep UConn well within reach. The teams combined to make 28 of 96 field goal attempts.
The Bearcats are in the midst of a three-game stretch that should prepare them well for tournament time, despite losing the first two. They dropped games against Louisville and UConn and will host No. 21 Memphis on Thursday before wrapping up the regular season next weekend at Rutgers.
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