UC opens AAC title defense with 93-61 romp over Tulane
Jarron Cumberland scored a game-high 22 points, Justin Jenifer added a career-high 18 and the Bearcats opened defense of their American Athletic Conference championship with a no-doubt 93-61 win over the Green Wave on Wednesday.
Cumberland credited tough practices with lots of running for helping the Bearcats shake off the rust of not having played since December 22.
“We practiced a lot of transition and did a lot of running to get our legs back,” the junior guard said.
Cane Broome, in just his third start of the season, also reached double figures with 17 points and Rashawn Fredericks finished with 9 for Cincinnati (12-2 1-0), which has won three straight games after a 70-59 loss at then-No. 18 Mississippi State.
“It felt good,” said the senior guard, making his first start since November 16. “I felt really good in practice the past couple of days.”
“We were trying to get his confidence going,” Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said, “He had a great practice (Tuesday). He was unstoppable.”
The Bearcats went 16-2 while capturing the 2017-2018 AAC regular-season championship and went on to win the conference tournament title.
The final margin was Cincinnati’s largest lead of the game.
“I thought our effort was better than it’s been in terms of physicality than virtually every game this season,” Tulane coach Mike Dunleavy said. “I told our guys (Cincinnati’s) effort is the next level. If you want to be a team that has a chance to go deep in the NCAA playoff, then you’ve got to beat them to the floor. You’ve got to beat them to the loose balls. Their physicality, their ability to work on the offensive glass, the way they push you out is great technique.”
Besides going 6-for-7 from the field, including 4-for-5 on 3-pointers, the efficient Jenifer turned in a team-high five assists without committing a turnover. The senior guard went into the game with a nation’s-best turnover-to-assist ratio, 8.8-to-1.
Jordan Cornish scored 19 points and Caleb Daniels added 16 to lead Tulane (4-9, 1-0), which is on a three-game losing streak and also hadn’t played since December 22. The Green Wave finished 5-13 in AAC play last season.
Before a crowd of 10,689, Cincinnati took the lead for good at 8-5 on a Cumberland 3-pointer less than 90 seconds into the game. The Bearcats took control with a 15-1 run that left them leading, 32-15, with 10:51 left in the first half. Fredericks capped the surge with a pair of 3-point shots, one from each corner. Broome contributed five points to the run.
“We came out ready to play from the jump,” Cronin said. “Tulane hit some tough shots early, but we overcame that with great offensive execution. If you get 67 shots and 20 assists, it’s tough to beat you. It was the unselfish play of our guards.”
“The big differences in the game was they made tough shots in the first half and we let them get the ball to the rim,” said Dunleavy, who was whistled for a technical foul early in the second half. “Their guards came down and pump-faked us. They had two or three layups in the paint. It really cost us. The score was 19-14 at one point, and then we let them get on that kind of a run.
The Bearcats tied their season low with just five turnovers.
Tulane: The Green Wave has lost six straight to the Bearcats since a buzzer-beating 50-49 win at Cincinnati on Feb 14, 2015.
Cincinnati: The win was the 1,800th for the Cincinnati program, which went into the game ranked 14th nationally in all-time victories.
Cincinnati’s 52 first-half points were the most allowed before halftime by Tulane this season. The previous high was 47.
Tulane senior Blake Paul was whistled for a flagrant-two foul and ejected with 5:07 left before halftime after wrestling Eliel Nsoseme to the floor by the neck while the two were jockeying for position in the lane.
STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT
For the second consecutive season, Cincinnati and Tulane will meet just once in regular season.
Tulane: The Green Wave is scheduled to play its conference home opener on Saturday against Southern Methodist .
Cincinnati: The Bearcats are scheduled to travel to East Carolina on Saturday for their first conference road game.
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