The Bearcats forced UConn into a half-court game and held the Huskies to 19 points below their season average, but lost 67-34 on Sunday.
"They still beat us by 30; they are the No. 1 team in the country," said Cincinnati coach Jamelle Elliott, a former UConn player and assistant coach. "But there are some small individual goals that we accomplished that's going to help our guys move forward from this 30-point loss."
Cincinnati (7-5, 0-1 American Athletic Conference), which is winless in nine meetings against the Huskies, was led by Jeanise Randolph who had 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Breanna Stewart recorded her fourth straight double-double for Connecticut (13-0, 1-0 American), scoring 12 points and pulling down 12 rebounds. She also had four steals and two blocked shots. Moriah Jefferson and Bria Hartley each added 12 points.
The Huskies held Cincinnati scoreless for the game's first six minutes and led 16-0 before Kayla Cook got the Bearcats on the board with a 3-pointer. UConn led by 13 at halftime and used a 16-3 run in the second half to put the game out of reach.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had seven points during the Huskies early run, but also picked up three early fouls and had to sit for the final 14 minutes of the first half and didn't score again.
"We kind of got stuck, and we stayed stuck for the rest of the first half," said UConn coach Geno Auriemma.
Cincinnati responded by scoring 14 of the next 20 points and outscoring UConn 20-17 the rest of the half. A 3-pointer by Marley Hill just before the halftime buzzer cut the UConn lead to 33-20.
"After that first run they got on us, I thought we played pretty good basketball up until the end of the first half," Elliott said.
Cincinnati cut the lead to 35-24 before UConn took control. Hartley went end-to-end after rebounding a missed jumper by Bianca Quisenberry to give UConn a 51-27 lead and force a Cincinnati timeout.
"It's always good to win a game when you're not making shots and you have to find other ways to compete and get into the game," Hartley said. "Even though our offense wasn't good today, we were able to come out and play well defensively.
UConn, which came in shooting almost 52 percent from the floor, was held to 41 percent, including 36 percent in the first half. But the Bearcats were worse, shooting 25 percent, hitting just 13 of 53 shots from the floor.
Mosqueda-Lewis said that had a lot to do with Stewart getting in the passing lanes and disrupting the Bearcats' offense.
"Coach has been talking about how we have to be complete players and we have to be mature," she said. "When you miss shots, you can't disappear, especially when you're as good a player as she is. You have to do other things."
The Bearcats', who came in on a five-game winning streak, also got a bit banged up. The team's leading scorer, Dayeesha Hollins, went out in the first half after hyperextending her right elbow diving for a loose ball. She returned, with that elbow heavily wrapped, and finished with just five points. Forward Alexis Durley also went down hard after a first-half foul by Stefanie Dolson and came back into the game with her right shoulder wrapped.
"I think Day's (injury) is a little more serious," said Elliott. "I just hope with some treatment these guys will be ready to go in a couple days."
The Huskies played five Top 25 teams during their non-conference schedule, with Baylor still to come in January, winning those games by an average of 22 points. The conference schedule promises to be less of a challenge. UConn and Louisville are the only ranked teams in the American and they will face each other twice.
UConn is 64-7 against AAC opponents with six of those losses coming to Rutgers, a team they have not lost to in the last five seasons. The other defeat came against Louisville, in 1993.
The Huskies took time before Sunday's game to honor their national championship teams from 2003 and 2004, unveiling plaques on the arena's wall of honor. Several former players attended the ceremony, but star Diana Taurasi was not among them. She is playing basketball overseas.
UConn now heads south for a New Year's Day game against Central Florida. Cincinnati will visit SMU.