HARTFORD, Conn. -
The 2016-17 UConn men’s basketball season is going to end at some point, they all do – but the Huskies made sure that it would not end Friday night at the XL Center. UConn topped Houston by a 74-65 score in the American Athletic Conference Tournament quarterfinals and move on to face Cincinnati Saturday at 5:00 p.m. in the semifinals.
This season has been a little more frustrating than others in the past, as the Huskies have had a slew of injuries and tight games that have forced a win-or-end-the-season situation in the American Athletic Conference championship.
After getting by USF in the tournament’s first round on Thursday, the Huskies faced third-seeded Houston in the quarterfinals. The Cougars had already topped UConn twice this season and early on, it appeared that trend might continue.
Houston built up an early 11-point lead in the game and led 20-9 with 10:31 to go in the first half. To make matters worse, UConn was temporarily without the services of senior Rodney Purvis at the time, who was on the bench and in the locker room after he was injured from committing a hard charge.
The Huskies then took control of the game and the passionately loud UConn fans in the XL Center loved it. Houston didn’t score a field goal in the final 5:38 of the half and the Huskies had a 35-26 halftime lead.
The Cougars didn’t go away easily and closed the gap to two points, 35-33, just 1:29 into the second half.
But once again..not tonight.
UConn fought tooth and nail and the lead was back to nine, 51-42, with 11:56 to go. Houston made some runs, but in the end it was a nine-point win.
Sophomore Jalen Adams was spectacular for the Huskies with 23 points, including 18 in the second half. Purvis, who said he just needed to get his wind back after the charge, had 18. Two freshmen -- Christian Vital and Vance Jackson – each had 12.
The next step is Cincinnati, which posted an impressive 80-61 win over Tulsa in the semifinals. The Bearcats have two wins over the Huskies this year, including a 67-47 win in Gampel Pavilion just last Sunday.
Friday’s crowd at the XL Center was 7,365 and it was loud and no doubt played a role in the game. So come on Husky fans, get to downtown Hartford tomorrow.
Enjoy the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, support local merchants and get to the game. SMU and UCF play the first semifinal at 3:00 p.m. and then it’s the Huskies and Bearcats’ turn.
It didn’t end Friday night for the Huskies and you sure know they don’t want it to end Saturday either.