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UC-UConn Rock 'N Roll Party

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Was it a foul? Did the officials have it right when they whistled UConn's Gavin Edwards for fouling UC freshman forward Lance Stephenson with 0.7 seconds remaining, allowing Stephenson to hit the game-winning free throws?

 

Me, I couldn't tell - neither live, sitting 30 feet away, nor on the monitor replays.

 

Lance, what do you think?

 

"(Jerome Dyson) forced me left, I spun, and the big man ran into me."

 

Mick Cronin, your thoughts?

"I saw a lot of contact early, before he got in the lane. Once he got in the lane, I thought it was pretty obvious. But obviously, I'm biased."

 

I bet UConn coach Jim Calhoun might have another opinion.

 

"You can look at the replays, too," he said. "I haven't seen a good replay. With 0.7 on the clock?"

 

Then, Calhoun shrugged.

 

Well, whichever the case, Stephenson, a freshman playing in a big game on national TV, had two chances to hit what turned out to be the game-winning free throws. Cronin said he wasn't nervous, that Stephenson shows up on gameday. Stephenson, meanwhile, only had one thought in his head.

 

"All I was thinking was to let me get to the free throw line, because I knew I was going to knock them down," he said.

 

And knock them down he did.

 

"It's a tough situation to be in as a freshman," senior guard Deonta Vaughn said. "But we shoot those types of shots in practice where it's a pressure shot. We've been shooting a lot of free throws. He's been excellent in practice. I knew he was going to make at least one of them."

 

Stephenson's free throws obviously were huge, but equally as important was the way UC played the Huskies. After the game, Cronin said his program is to the point where it looks like a UConn-type program, because the Bearcats have the physicality and the talent to compete with the top-tier teams on a daily basis. The big question, though, is what happens Saturday at Rutgers?

 

Do the Bearcats play like they did against UConn, or do they revert back to the disinterested form they showed vs. UAB on Dec. 16?

 

"The one danger in playing those preconference games - when you play a UAB who has a very good coach and who has veteran guys who don't lose at home - your players don't have the same respect," Cronin said. "Our guys understand Rutgers. They saw Rutgers play North Carolina, and they saw it was close (a four-point game in the second half). They know Rutgers is in the Big East. The mature team that's able to hang in all year game-to-game-to-game is the team that's going to come out with the most wins."

 

Said Vaughn: "We need to play every team like they're a top-25 team. We have to think every team is a top-10 team and play up to our level, because we're a top-25 team in our eyes."

 

--Vaughn continues to play better after a tough start to the season. Entering last week's Winthrop game, he averaged 9.7 points per contest while shooting 34 percent from the floor and 25.8 percent from the 3. In the past two games, he's averaging 14 points and shooting 60 and 75 percent, respectively. He also passed Jack Twyman for eighth on the school all-time scoring list tonight. He's got 1,601 points.

 

"It's like I've been trying to tell him," Cronin said. "Although we played well in Maui and were a couple overtimes away from having one loss, we're not going to do what we want to do in the Big East if he doesn't get back to being the type of player he is. The way to do that is to get back in the gym and push himself in practice and get his rhythm back. It's pretty simple."

 

Tonight, though, the Bearcats also discovered they can win when Vaughn isn't in the game down the stretch. Although he fouled out with 1:30 to go, UC still managed to take the win. Stephenson would prefer not to try that again.

 

"He has to always be in the game," Stephenson said. "I hope he doesn't have to come out of the game again."

 

I also found it interesting that Cronin tapped sophomore Dion Dixon to run the point guard spot in Vaughn's absence, rather than redshirt freshman Cashmere Wright - who only played six minutes tonight.

 

"I was worried about Cash in that situation because he didn't have a lot of minutes in the second half," Cronin said. "Dion Dixon, I have a lot of confidence in. He's a confident ball-handler. He's a guy who could probably play the point for us."

 

--UConn entered the game as the nation's leader in blocked shots with 10.1 per game. UC held the Huskies to zero.

 

"If we didn't block a shot and won the game, I wouldn't care," Calhoun said. "I'm sure when we go to the video tape we'll see blocked shots. Give Cincinnati the credit. They muscled their way inside."

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