Cincinnati 64, Miami (Ohio) 48
Charlie Coles' Miami (Ohio) team has lost to four of the nine unbeaten ones left in Division I. He thinks the latest one he's seen belongs in the group.
Dion Dixon scored a career-high 23 points, and Cincinnati remained one of those few unbeaten teams on Tuesday night, pulling away to a 64-48 win over Miami.
The Bearcats (11-0) are on their longest winning streak since 2004-05, when they opened 11-0 in Bob Huggins' final season as coach. Coles' RedHawks also have lost to Duke, Ohio State and San Diego State, three other teams that have yet to lose.
''I think they're close,'' Coles said. ''I think they're a Top 25 team now. I think they're definitely a tournament team. Sorry Mick - I'm putting him on the hot seat now.''
When Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin walked into the interview room a few moments later, Coles gave him a hug. The Bearcats had come through a new experience - trailing early on the road and having to regroup.
''It was a good experience for us,'' Cronin said. ''If I could have drawn it up, it would be to be down and come back and win, just to be on the road and have that experience. The thing I'm most proud of is that guys never panicked.''
Dixon led a fast-break offense that pulled away late in the first half after Miami (5-7) led by seven. Ibrahima Thomas had his third career double-double, getting 11 points and matching his career high with 13 rebounds as the Bearcats dominated inside.
Nick Winbush scored 11 points for Miami, which has lost its last 12 games against Cincinnati.
Power forward Julian Mavunga was Miami's leading scorer in the last five games, but had a tough time against the Bearcats' taller front line. Mavunga was 2 of 8 from the field for seven points and had five of Miami's 14 turnovers.
Miami's last win in the series came on Dec. 1, 1990 in Oxford. Cincinnati hadn't made the 45-minute drive north in nearly 18 years.
The Bearcats have eased through one of the nation's easiest nonconference schedules. Their strength of schedule is rated 336th out of the 345 Division I teams in the latest RPI rankings. Cincinnati is hoping the surplus of early wins and a solid showing in Big East play translates into its first NCAA tournament appearance since Huggins' last season.
Three of the nine remaining unbeaten teams are in the Big East.
''We're trying to get ready to play close games,'' Cronin said. ''We play five teams in the top 10 (in the Big East). The other teams in our league are really good.''
The RedHawks were trying for their second home-court upset against a local rival. They beat Xavier 75-64 in Oxford on Dec. 1, getting the early lead and holding on down the stretch.
They jumped ahead again by hitting 3s. Miami made five of its first seven shots from beyond the arc and pulled ahead 27-20 with 6:22 left in the half. Cronin got a technical foul during Miami's early surge.
Cincinnati closed the half with a 15-1 run set up by fast-break points. Point guard Cashmere Wright had a steal and layup, a fast-break layup and a 3-pointer during the six-minute spurt, which made it 35-28 at the break. Miami missed eight shots and had three turnovers during the run.
''We came out a little sluggish,'' Dixon said. ''We just picked up the intensity on the defensive end and the offense took care of itself.''
The RedHawks couldn't make any shots consistently at the start of the second half, either. Darnell Wilks' 3-pointer built the lead to 48-33 with 11:58 to go, putting the Bearcats in control. After that fast start, Miami went only 1 of 13 from behind the 3-point arc the rest of the way.
''I don't know whether we ran out of gas or what,'' Coles said. ''I thought we played a great 16 minutes in the first half and put ourselves in position to make a real game out of it and maybe win - I know I may be dreaming on that winning part. To see the way we crumbled was real disheartening.''