Houston ends No. 5 Cincinnati’s 16-game win streak, 67-62
HOUSTON (AP) Defense has been Cincinnati’s cornerstone this season.
The Bearcats defense couldn’t make up for a second half offensive slump Thursday night, and Houston made Cincinnati pay.
”You never want to lose, but you learn some things from the loss,” Cincinnati forward Kyle Washington said.
Rob Gray chipped in 13 points and Armoni Brooks added 12 as the Cougars (20-5, 10-3 American Athletic Conference) earned their second win this season over a top-10 team after beating then-No. 7 Wichita State on Jan. 20.
Houston last beat two top-10 teams in a season in 1983-84, when it did that four times en route to the national championship game.
”I think this win sets off some alarms in people’s heads,” Corey Davis said.
Cincinnati (23-3, 12-1) had a 50-49 lead with 4:18 left after Jacob Evans’ free throw, but Gray hit a 3-pointer to give the Cougars back the lead with 3:32 left. Brooks nailed a 3-pointer from the right wing with two minutes left and Davis came up with a steal and went the length of the court for a layup to give the Cougars a seven-point advantage with 1:47 left.
”We didn’t do a good job enough defensively, making them uncomfortable with what they wanted to run,” Washington said. ”They out hustled us.”
The Bearcats entered the game second nationally in scoring defense, allowing 55.9 points per game and leading the nation in field goal percentage defense, holding opponents to 36 percent from the field. Houston shot 48 perfect from the floor, including 54 percent in the second half.
”We had a lot of inexcusable defensive breakdowns in the second,” Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. ”We lost shooters for no reason, and then we weren’t tough enough to come out of there with the rebound when we got it.”
Evans made a layup and was fouled with 18 seconds left to end a drought of 11 minutes, 56 seconds without a field goal. He missed the free throw, but Jarron Cumberland got the rebound and was fouled. He made one of two free throws, but Fabian White Jr. got the rebound, was fouled and made both free throws with 16 seconds left to seal the win.
”This was not a game that was ever going to be pretty,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. ”It wasn’t going to be pretty for them, and it wasn’t going to be pretty for us.”
Evans led four Bearcats in double figures with 16 points and Cumberland finished with 14. Cincinnati shot 39 percent from the field.
”We didn’t execute offensively, adjust to what they were doing to us, and it cost us big time,” Cincinnati forward Gary Clark said.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats dominated both ends of the floor for the first 8 1/2 minutes in opening up their 13-point lead behind. Cincinnati went cold in the second half, shooting 32 percent and missing 11 straight 3-pointers.
”I told them the last big road game I thought we had that we played well at was UCLA,” Cronin said. ”I told them the difference in tonight’s game is this team isn’t going to go down without a brawl. They will either foul out trying to beat us or they will beat us with their physicality and rebounding and scrapping and fighting because they are in a must-win situation.”
Houston: The Cougars helped their NCAA Tournament resume. The Cougars, winners of six of seven, overcame a slow start but played well on defense in the second half to pull off the upset.
BY THE NUMBERS
Cincinnati: Clark finished with 13 points and seven rebounds, and Washington added 10 points. Cincinnati shot 24 of 32 from the free throw line.
Houston: The Cougars out-rebounded Cincinnati 36-27, leading to a 17-10 advantage in second chance points. Houston finished 7 of 17 from behind the arc, including 5 of 11 in the second half.
FACES IN THE CROWD
Minnesota quarterback and Houston alum Case Keenum took a sideline seat across from the Houston bench at halftime to the chant of ”Skol”! from the crowd. New England Patriots linebacker Elandon Roberts and Detroit Lions cornerback DJ Hayden, both former Houston football players, were also in attendance.
Cincinnati: Hosts No. 19 Wichita State on Sunday to start a three-game homestand.
Houston: Travels to Temple Sunday before playing at Memphis on Feb. 22