Just in case the Big East conference didn’t know Lance Stephenson is the real deal, it knows now. The soon-to-be NBA lottery pick lit up the 10th ranked UConn Huskies for 21 points while draining all seven of his free throws, including two in ice cold fashion to clinch the victory with :00.7 left on the clock.
Cincinnati (9-3, 1-0 Big East) was able to hold off a late UConn run to improve to 3-0 vs ranked teams on the young season. The re-emergence of senior guard Deonta Vaughn was a big reason why, as the Indianapolis native netted three three-pointers on his way to a solid 17 point-five rebound-five assist effort.
A key play in the game was a silky 15-foot jumper by Steve “Charles Oakley” Toyloy to begin the second half, igniting an 11-2 run for the Bearcats in front of over 10,000 fans at 5th Third Arena.
As expected, Jerome Dyson (24 pts) and Stanley Robinson (22 pts) came up large for Connecticut (9-3, 0-1 Big East). But the Bearcats put the clamps on the rest of the Huskies, as Jim Calhoun suffered through a 37.5 percent shooting effort from his team.
On the game’s final play in which Stephenson drew a foul from UConn’s Gavin Edwards with the game tied at 69, some controversy ensued. The foul call itself was construed as questionable by some involved.
But, if you remember back two seasons ago, same teams same building, a horsesh*t foul call on UC’s Rashad Bishop enabled UConn’s A.J. Price to hit two late free throws-- the Huskies won 85-84. So, two years later, justice is served.
In the game last night, both Bearcat dunks were huge. First, junior guard Larry Davis rammed home a one-hander off one foot on a fast break, courtesy of a perfect outlet pass from Stephenson. Then, with under a minute to play, Dion Dixon found 6’11” Ibrahima Thomas who quickly threw down a two-hander to give UC a three point lead.
You can go ahead and add Calhoun to the growing list of Hall of Fame coaches Mick Cronin has knocked off in his three-plus seasons at UC. Cronin has previously beaten Rick Pitino, Jim Boeheim, and Bob Huggins (will be in Hall eventually).
Cincinnati won’t have much time to savor its first ever conquest of Connecticut, with a tough road game at Rutgers awaiting Darnell Wilks and the ‘Cats on Saturday (5:00 PST, Big East Network).
Enjoy the journey. Go ‘Cats.