Jan 18, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats forward Justin Jackson (5) shoots as South Florida Bulls forward Zach LeDay (3) and guard Martino Brock (0) defend during the first half at USF Sun Dome.
Kim Klement/Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Sean Kilpatrick got some help in making key baskets as No. 19 Cincinnati continued its hot stretch.
The American Athletic Conference’s leading scorer had 18 points and Shaquille Thomas added 10 to help lead Cincinnati past South Florida 61-54 on Saturday.
Troy Caupain and Jermaine Sanders hit key 3-pointers to give Cincinnati (17-2, 6-0 AAC) second-half momentum in winning its 10th straight.
"They took the lead a few times and we immediately buried a 3," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. "It was something I was really proud of. That’s what you’re trying to preach is, to continue to win, you can’t rely on Sean Kilpatrick every game."
Caupain’s trey put the Bearcats up 42-37 during an 8-2 early second-half surge. Sanders had a tiebreaking 3 later in the half to put Cincinnati ahead for good.
South Florida (10-8, 1-4) got 15 points from Javontae Hawkins. Bulls point guard Anthony Collins missed his eighth game in a row due to soreness in his left knee.
"I thought we really competed in this game," USF coach Stan Heath said. "Gave ourselves a chance to win. Just came up short."
Cincinnati extended its streak of holding an opponent to under 70 points to 26 consecutive games, which is the nation’s longest active stretch. The school record of 35 games that spanned three seasons started with the Bearcats’ 71-59 1962 NCAA championship game victory over Ohio State.
Cincinnati was outrebounded 36-30 by the Bulls, who had 13 turnovers. The Bearcats turned the ball over 11 times.
"It wasn’t pretty for us," Cronin said. "Give South Florida credit for that. I thought they did a great job keeping us off the offensive glass, which is really a big part of our offense."
Kilpatrick gave Cincinnati a seven-point lead at 56-49 with a layup with 3 minutes to go.
Hawkins’ 3-pointer pulled USF within 58-54 with 70 seconds left, but the Bulls were unable to score again the rest of the way.
After South Florida’s Chris Perry tied it at 47, Sanders made a long-distance jumper to give Cincinnati a 50-47 lead with 8 minutes to play. Titus Rubles’ layup extended the Bearcats advantage to 52-47 3 minutes later.
"It’s a really good overall team," Heath said. "They have different guys that give you six points, seven points, eight points and it all adds up. You can just tell every one of their guys is really committed on that defensive side."
Thomas had 10 points as Cincinnati took a 30-26 halftime advantage.
Cincinnati, which blew a 10-point lead, responded late in the opening half thanks in part to two late 3s from Ge’Lawn Guyn.
Hawkins connected for a 3 and then completed a 15-3 run with a layup that put South Florida ahead 24-22 with just over three minutes remaining in the opening half.
Kilpatrick had the first five points in the game to help Cincinnati go up 9-2 early on. Thomas’ rebound basket and a layup by Kilpatrick made it 19-9 midway through the first half.
Kilpatrick moved past Roger McClendon (1985-88) into fifth place on Cincinnati’s career scoring list.
Bearcats forward Jermaine Lawrence sat out his fourth consecutive game with a toe injury.