LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Turnovers doomed any chance for Cincinnati to upset No. 8 Louisville on Monday night.
The Cardinals (25-5, 13-4 Big East) forced the Bearcats into a season-high 21 turnovers in their 67-51 victory. Cincinnati had 19 turnovers in wins over DePaul and Tennessee-Martin earlier this season.
JaQuon Parker’s elbow jumper tied the game at 37 with 15:57 left but Louisville’s swarming defense sparked a 25-7 run over the next 10:03.
“It should have been a game that would have went to the wire if we would have taken care of the basketball,” Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. “Mathematically, we gave ourselves no chance to win.”
Cincinnati (20-10, 8-9) entered the game committing only 11.6 turnovers a game in Big East play but had 12 in the opening half alone. The mishaps continued after halftime as Titus Rubles mishandled a pass on their first possession that bounced into the Bearcats’ bench, one of his eight turnovers.
Louisville guard Kevin Ware’s interception at midcourt was Cincinnati’s 19th turnover and his ensuing dunk with 9:37 left forced Cronin to use his final timeout.
“Turnovers for touchdowns,” Cronin said. “You can’t defend layups going the other way. We can defend with most people in the half court. . We couldn’t get our defense set. That was the problem.”
Six 3-pointers got the Bearcats within 35-31 at halftime, but they missed all seven attempts in the second half. The Cardinals had 23 points off turnovers and held Cincinnati to just seven field goals in the second half and 35 percent shooting (18 of 51) for the game.
Senior guard Cashmere Wright led Cincinnati with 15 points.
“They’ve got little guards and they force you to play outside your game,” Wright said. “They’re just going to pressure you and make you make that mistake.”
Sean Kilpatrick, the team’s leading scorer who had 20 points in Saturday’s 61-56 win at Connecticut, had 12 points but was 3 of 15 from the field. It was the Bearcats’ sixth loss in eight games.
Cronin said Wright popped his right shoulder out of place for the sixth time this season but it was put back into place and he continued playing.
“It’s something you deal with,” Wright said. “After the season I’ll get it taken care of but right now, I ain’t got no time. You just keep pushing.”
Russ Smith scored 18 points and Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng added 11 points each for Louisville, which shot 48 percent (28 of 58), including 13 of 24 in the second half.
“Everybody’s playing great right now,” Siva said. “This is like Louisville every year. Coach P gets us going like this every year. All that hard work is finally paying off.”
A 13-9 run over the final 7:12 of the half provided Louisville’s halftime lead, but that disappeared early in the second half as the Cardinals went nearly 5 minutes without a field goal. Cincinnati rallied to tie the game at 37 by the first media timeout.
Louisville followed with a 9-1 run that eventually became a 62-44 lead. Everybody contributed, with the bench outscoring Cincinnati’s reserves 19-6.