UH came up short yet again in a solid effort against No. 10 Cincinnati. The Bearcats, who lead the American Athletic Conference, grinded out a 73-62 win.
The final score was not much of an indication of how closely contested the game was. Both teams traded blows in the first half and through much of the second, but Cincinnati’s veteran presence helped it grab the victory.
Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin said the close win was a good experience for his players. It tested their ability to execute down the stretch, and they ended the game on an 18-5 run.
“Houston had a highly efficient offense until we were able to lock in late in the game and get some defensive stops,” Cronin said. “It was good to have to deal with that, because it makes us a better team.”
The Cougars played on a big stage in front of a sellout crowd. They couldn’t upset the Bearcats in their house, which attracted 13,176 fans for their first sellout since 2012.
UH competed hard against a tough team that is every bit deserving of its national rank, head coach James Dickey said. The Cougars have to get consistent stops and value offensive possessions late in games.
“We went through a stretch there in the last couple of minutes where we couldn’t get a basket and they got more stops than we did, and that turned out to be the difference in the game,” Dickey said.
Cincinnati is ranked No. 5 in the nation in points allowed per game with 57.7, and it is ranked in the top 20 in both blocks and steals per game. It forced UH to commit 13 turnovers.
Bearcats senior guard Sean Kilpatrick had a game-high 28 points, 19 of which came in the second half, and contributed six assists. Cincinnati also had the shoulders of senior forwards Justin Jackson and Titus Rubles to lean on. The two combined for 21 points and nine rebounds.
Cincinnati’s game plan to limit junior forward TaShawn Thomas’ touches in the paint seemed to work, because Thomas converted on only three of his eight attempts.
“He’s 6-9, and when you get him in the paint, there’s nothing you can do about it. I can’t even do anything about it,” Jackson said.
Freshman forward Danrad Knowles led the Cougars in scoring with 11 points, while sophomore forward Danuel House, sophomore guard L.J. Rose and Thomas had 10 points each.
The Cougars’ road woes continue as their record dropped to 12-13 and 4-8 in conference play.
Cincinnati was coming off their only conference loss this season against No. 23 SMU. The Cougars are going to have to step up to the challenge when they travel to Dallas to face this powerhouse on Wednesday.