CINCINNATI -- A.J. Price figured he owed his teammates.
Four days after playing what he called the worst game of his college career, Price hit 5 of 8 3-pointers and scored 22 points and No. 5 Connecticut flexed its muscles down the stretch to beat Cincinnati 81-72 on Saturday night.
"After that performance, I wanted to come out and show I was able to do the things I know I was capable of doing," Price said of going 0-for-9 from the field and scoring one point in 22 minutes in a 61-55 victory at West Virginia. "I came out tonight and once I started making shots early, it just made things that much easier for me."
It was Price who always seemed to make the big play when most needed.
Coach Jim Calhoun wasn't a bit surprised.
"After the West Virginia game, he [Price] thanked [teammate] Kemba Walker for picking him up when he was playing so poorly," Calhoun said. "We all want to win. The best way to pay him back was to step up tonight in a tough environment against a good team. He hit tough shot after tough shot and played great defense and assisted on buckets."
Price hit 8 of 12 shots from the field and also had five assists, a steal and two rebounds.
The senior said long days at practice helped him forget about his last game.
"I worked my butt off for this to happen," he said in the hallway outside the locker room. "Nothing's going to happen just because you want it to happen. Coach told me I had to continue working and everything would fall into place. That's what I tried to do and it carried over into the game."
Deonta Vaughn scored 19 points, Mike Williams 14 and Yancy Gates 12 for Cincinnati (10-6, 0-3), which has lost four in a row on the heels of a four-game winning streak. The Bearcats had been booed off the floor in an 87-79 home loss to Providence on Wednesday night, but they fought on relatively even terms with the Huskies.
Connecticut has won three in a row since sustaining its only loss, 74-63 at home to Georgetown, in the conference opener on Dec. 29.
"Talent combined with experience equals winning," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. "A lot of talent and a world of experience, and you're going to win a lot. If they stay healthy, the sky's the limit for them."
This game was nothing like the last meeting between the teams. The Huskies won last March at home, 96-51, in the most lopsided Big East game ever. Cincinnati has never beaten the Huskies in five meetings.
Up four at the half -- thanks to two late Price 3-pointers -- the Huskies used an 8-2 run to build their advantage to 55-46 on Dyson's long 3 from in front of Calhoun with 12:01 left.
After the Bearcats cut the lead to three points, the Huskies stretched the margin to seven again when Stanley Robinson dunked off an alley-oop pass from Price before Hasheem Thabeet jammed in an assist from Dyson.
Cincinnati kept applying pressure but could never pull even.
"We wanted to come out and play hard," Vaughn said. "We did what we had to do. We played hard and competed and we didn't give them anything easy. They had to work for everything they got."
Price said that's what good, experienced teams do.
"That's a testament to our veteran team," he said. "We have a lot of older guys who have been in this situation before. We know what we need to do. We're not going to panic when situations arise. We tried to just stay calm and stay within ourselves and keep that lead."
Clinging to a 61-56 advantage, the Huskies finally gained some breathing room on Price's perimeter jumper and, after a miss, Walker's end-to-end drive for a layup and a 65-56 lead with 6 1/2 minutes left.
Price then hit a fallaway 3 from the left corner for a 12-point lead, putting the game out of reach.
"We never had control, but we were on top," Calhoun said. "And then we grabbed a hold with about 6 minutes to go and we got ourselves a really, really well-earned victory."