The stakes in the American Athletic Conference tournament quarterfinal between No. 4 seed Cincinnati and No. 5 seed Connecticut were high to say the least. How close (or far) the two teams were to an NCAA tournament bid depends upon who was providing the opinion, but regardless of the conversation the best thing a team can do is live to fight another day.
The Bearcats and Huskies fought for a total of 60 minutes before determining a winner, with UConn winning by the final score of 104-97. And the win came five game minutes after one of the wildest sequences you’ll see in basketball, with Cincinnati’s Kevin Johnson hitting a three with eight tenths of a second remaining, only to have UConn’s Jalen Adams hit a 70-footer (a shot that some, most notably Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin, did not think should have counted) as time expired to force a fourth overtime.
Whether the shot was luck or skill, all that matters is the fact that it went in. And UConn took advantage of that extra life, with Adams and Daniel Hamilton leading the team to a much-needed win and a date with top seed Temple in Saturday’s semifinals.
Hamilton finished with 32 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists, and Adams scored 20 of his 22 points after halftime. And for the Bearcats guard Troy Caupain was sensational, as he countered with an AAC tournament record 37 points while also grabbing ten rebounds and dishing out five assists. Each team had five players in double figures, but in the end UConn was able to use the momentum gained from Adams’ miraculous shot in the fourth overtime.
UConn had just three RPI Top 50 wins entering the game, so this was a critical win in that regard. The RPI isn’t the only metric the selection committee uses, but it certainly is a factor in the process. Just as importantly, with the win UConn gets to continue to make their case for inclusion into the field and can still eliminate all doubt by winning the conference’s automatic bid.
Will fatigue be an issue? That’s certainly possible, and Kevin Ollie’s team will need to make the most of their recovery time before Saturday’s semifinal matchup with Temple. Just as big of a concern for UConn is figuring out how to get over the hump against a team that beat them twice during the regular season. That’s the same situation the Huskies were confronted with going into their matchup with Cincinnati, and thanks to the heroics of Adams and Hamilton they found a way to win.