^By WILLIAM S. PAXTON=
STORRS, Conn. (AP) _ Sure, No. 18 Cincinnati pulled down a season-high 44 rebounds. Coach Mick Cronin had a good reason why the Bearcats excelled on the boards.
“Well, we missed enough shots, we should get some of the rebounds,” Cronin said. “It was a bricklaying convention there early.”
Gary Clark had 17 points and 14 rebounds, leading Cincinnati over short-handed Connecticut 67-47 Sunday in the regular-season finale for both teams.
The Bearcats’ previous high for rebounds was 43 in a win against Temple on Dec. 28.
Cincinnati (27-4, 16-2 American Athletic Conference) made just 32.5 percent of its shots in the first half and finished only 24 of 66 (36 percent). The Bearcats turned 17 offensive boards into 17 points.
With forward Kyle Washington limited, Clark asserted himself from the start. He had 13 points and 10 rebounds at the break.
“So Kyle didn’t practice Friday or Saturday, tweaked his ankle,” Cronin said. “Gary knew that he had to take over today. I told him I’m just going to keep coming to you.”
Clark was ready, hitting 7 of 14 shots despite being defended by 7-foot-center Amida Brimah much of the game.
“Coach has been on me about just trying to dominate,” Clark said. “Stop saving energy and just dominate every possession.” he said.
Jarron Cumberland added 15 points and Jacob Evans III had 12 for the Bearcats.
Rodney Purvis scored 15 points for UConn (14-16, 9-9), which lost its fourth in a row. The loss dropped the Huskies into the play-in round of the AAC Tournament.
“We got a new season starting Thursday, maybe Friday,” UConn coach Kevin Ollie said. “We have to keep believing and stay positive.”
The Bearcats led 21-7 midway through the first half. Kevin Johnson made a 3-pointer 14 seconds into the second half and Cincinnati never lost its double-digit lead.
Amida Brimah had 11 points for UConn. The Huskies were down to seven scholarship players for the game after freshman Vance Jackson sustained a concussion in Wednesday’s loss at East Carolina
“We thought with our legs and our energy, I went to my bench early because obviously without Jackson playing today, it put them in a tough spot,” Cronin said.
After honoring its senior class, the Huskies struggled on the court, hitting just 8 of 30 shots in the first half. They finished shooting a season-low 31.3 percent (15 for 48) from the field.
“They are a tough team, but we can play with those guys if we come out tough and don’t fall behind early,” Purvis said.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats have recovered from being upset at Central Florida last week. The Bearcats and SMU will be the favorites in the conference tournament.
UConn: Eight of the 11 scholarship players have missed at least one game because of injury.
With wins over Houston and UConn this week, the Bearcats could move up a few spots.
QUOTABLE: The 14 shots taken by Clark were one off a career high, which he set earlier this season against Marshall.
“Fourteen shots for Gary Clark is like 28 for another guy,” Cronin said. “Gary Clark, right now I have to put him in counseling because he thinks he shot the ball too much. I guarantee he has a guilty complex right now.”
UConn was held under 50 points for the third time this season, with the lowest being 46 in a loss to Houston.
Cincinnati heads into the AAC Tournament as the second seed and is a lock for the NCAA Tournament.
UConn must win the conference tournament if it has any hope of making the NCAAs.
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