Connecticut's Rodney Purvis applauds during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Cincinnati in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference tournament, Friday, March 13, 2015, in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Jessica Hill
March 13, 2015

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Ryan Boatright told himself during UConn's final timeout huddle Friday night that he was not going to be responsible for letting the defending national champions lose a chance to get back to the NCAA Tournament.

Seconds later, he hit a step-back 3-point shot to beat Cincinnati 57-54, and send the Huskies into the American Athletic Conference semifinals.

Boatright scored 18 points and Rodney Purvis added 17 for the sixth-seeded Huskies (19-13) who likely must win this tournament to earn an NCAA bid.

''I knew I had a big on me, so I just gave him one good crossover, just to give myself enough space and I just locked in and followed through and made sure it went in,'' he said.

Troy Caupain had 12 points to lead Cincinnati (22-10) which may find itself on the tournament bubble after the loss.

The Bearcats overcame a five-point deficit over the final 1:25, tying the game on a Shaq Thomas tip-in with 13.5 seconds left, after Boatright missed a free throw.

But Boatright took the inbounds pass and drove down the court, using that cross-over jab-step to gain separation from Octavius Ellis and launching the game-winner with 0.2 left in front of a jubilant XL Center crowd.

''I wanted to put the ball in his hands, because he deserved it,'' said UConn coach Kevin Ollie. ''He's a senior and he came through for us.''

The game had seven lead changes and was tied 10 times. It was deadlocked at 45 for more than 2 1/2 minutes before the Huskies' Daniel Hamilton launched a long 3-pointer as the shot clock ran down and banked it home with 3 minutes left.

Amida Brimah then blocked Caupain's layup attempt, sparking a fast break that ended with a Purvis layup. Brimah's put-back of a Hamilton miss on UConn's next possession made it 52-47.

But Thomas made two tip-ins in the last minute to give Cincinnati a chance.

''They did everything I asked of them and they gave themselves a chance to win,'' said Cincinnati's acting head coach Larry Davis. ''We've got to get past this quickly.''

Cincinnati came in ranked sixth in the nation in total defense, allowing just 55.2 points a game, while the Huskies were allowing just 60.5.

The Bearcats held the Huskies to 38 percent shooting while hitting 45 percent of their own shots, but could not make the final stop.

The teams got off to a predictably slow start. Cincinnati used a 5-0 run to take a 12-7 advantage 11 minutes into the game.

But UConn tied the game on its next possession after Ellis was hit with a technical foul for shoving UConn's Phil Nolan. Boatright hit the both free throws and made a 3-pointer from the left corner.

UConn's 7-foot center, Brimah, was whistled for two early fouls. With the conference's defensive player of the year on the bench, Cincinnati went down low. They outscored UConn 14-6 in the paint and had an 11-2 advantage on second-chance points in the first half, but took just a 22-21 lead into the locker room.

Ellis finished with 11 points and seven rebounds. Thomas had 10 points and seven boards.

Seven of the last eight meetings between the two teams had been decided by single digits.

The Bearcats came into the game on a five-game winning streak. Davis said they still expect to get a bid to the tournament for the fifth consecutive season.

''We're undefeated against the top of our league,'' he said. ''Yeah, we're in. I would say I sure think we're in, put it that way.''

TIP-INS

UConn: Boatright now has 1,758 career points and needs just 25 to pass Kemba Walker on the school's career list.

The Huskies played without forward Kentan Facey, who missed his second consecutive game after suffering a concussion in practice Tuesday. Ollie said he and Hamilton banged heads, and Facey, who is averaging 4.5 points and 5.3 rebounds, got the worst of it.

Reserve guard Sam Cassell Jr. missed his 14th consecutive game with a stress fracture in his right leg.

UConn is now 8-1 this season at the XL Center.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats lost their first game in a conference tournament for the first time in six years.

Cincinnati also debuted new home white uniforms, featuring a wide black stripe on the waistline and enlarged team logos on the shorts, with black and red stripes at the bottom of one leg.

Davis is now 15-8 since taking over from Mick Cronin, who left the team in December because of a problem with a blood vessel in his head.

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: UConn is now 8-1 at the XL Center. The Huskies sat on their familiar home bench, despite being the lower seed, and wearing the away jerseys.

UP NEXT:

UConn will face No. 2 seed Tulsa in Saturday's semifinals. The Golden Hurricane beat Houston 59-51 earlier Friday.

Cincinnati waits for what it hopes will be an NCAA Tournament bid.

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