Second-half offensive execution does in No. 22 UConn in Cincinnati

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No. 22 UConn entered Thursday’s game at No. 7 Cincinnati shorthanded, with junior forward and second-leading scorer and rebounder DeAndre Daniels ruled out due to a case of back spasms. Without Daniels, and with the Bearcats among the nation’s best when it comes to offensive rebounding, at first glance it seemed as if rebounding would be the Huskies’ biggest concern against the American Athletic Conference’s best team.

Ultimately UConn’s problem would be their work on the offensive end of the floor, as their second-half struggles were a big reason why they dropped a 63-58 decision.

Cincinnati’s impressive senior tandem of Sean Kilpatrick (26 points, 12 rebounds and six assists) and Justin Jackson (15 points, six rebounds) were the biggest factors in the outcome, but the Bearcats’ defense was also an issue for UConn. After shooting 46.2% in the first half UConn made just 32.0% of its shots in the second half, settling far too often for challenged looks from the perimeter.

Senior point guard Shabazz Napier struggled the most in the second half, making just two of his 12 attempts from the field (1-for-8 3PT). Obviously Napier will be the primary decision-maker for Kevin Ollie and to be frank he’s earned that right over the last season-plus, leading the team as a scorer while also being a solid distributor. However the balanced shot distribution that was present in the first half wasn’t there in the second, with no other Husky attempting more than five shots (Lasan Kromah).

In the first half the Huskies were balanced in their shot distribution, with four players attempting between four and seven shots from the field and each of those four players (Napier, Kromah, Ryan Boatright and Niels Giffey) scoring at least six points. UConn has a clear star in Napier and that’s perfectly fine, but in order for the Huskies to be at their best they need to make sure the other scoring options get the ball in advantageous positions as well.

At this point in the season it’s clear that UConn will be a tournament team, and they’ll be better when Daniels returns to full strength. Having one less scoring option impacted UConn in the second half on Thursday night, leaving them with one less player to trust when it came to taking the shots. Cincinnati’s a very good defensive team, and their ability to choke the life out of teams on that end of the floor has resulted in a 15-game win streak.

But to be fair UConn helped them out some on Thursday with their second-half execution, and that’s something the Huskies can’t afford to do as the season moves closer to March.

VIDEO: Monmouth hits a game-winner, Bench Mob member tries to disrobe

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Monmouth used a 17-2 run in the final minutes to beat Rider on Friday night, a win that will keep the Hawks within striking distance of the kind of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament should they fall in the MAAC tourney.

The run was capped by star point guard Justin Robinson, who buried this three with three seconds left to put Monmouth up for good, 79-78:

No. 17 Arizona erases double-digit deficit to beat UCLA

Arizona coach Sean Miller reacts to a foul call during the first half of Arizona's NCAA college basketball game against UCLA, Friday, Feb 12, 2016, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Allonzo Trier scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half and Parker Jackson-Cartwright scored 16 points in his second career start as No. 17 Arizona knocked off UCLA, 81-75, in Tucson on Friday night.

UCLA was up by as much as 11 points in the first half and took a ten point lead into half time, but in the second half, the Bruins were eventually done in by foul trouble and the stronger front line of the Wildcats.

Ryan Anderson and Kaleb Tarczewski were dominant down the stretch. The duo combined to score 12 of the last 23 point for the Wildcats, including the bucket that put the Wildcats ahead for the first time since early in the first half. Off of a missed free throw, UCLA’s Thomas Welsh battled with Tarczewski for the rebound, but when Welsh finally seemed to gain control of the loose ball, Anderson knocked it out of his hands and bullied through Jonah Bolden for a layup.

All told, those two combined for 20 points and 27 boards, seven of which were offensive. They also managed to foul out both Welsh and Tony Parker, although some of the calls that went against UCLA down the stretch were questionable.

The win keeps Arizona within a game of first place Oregon in the Pac-12 standings and tied for second with No. 23 USC, who will be visiting the McKale Center on Sunday night.