The Cincinnati Bearcats battled the 21st-ranked Houston Cougars in their quest to climb the AAC standings.
Cincinnati came into the game third in the ACC standings. In the end, the Bearcats (14-7, 7-2) were able to overcome a 15-point deficit and defeat the Cougars (17-5, 7-2) 64-62 in front of a sold-out Fifth Third Bank Arena.
The Bearcats held a 32-5 overall series lead before they took the court. Houston returned to the top 25 for the first time this season as they ride a five-game winning streak.
The start of the game set the tone as both teams were warned about trash-talking within the first 30 seconds. Turnovers plagued the Bearcats as the Cougars raced out to a 23-13 lead.
Jarron Cumberland and company had problems all first half against the Cougar’s zone. Cincinnati had six turnovers compared to two for Houston. UC could never catch a rhythm and made only ten field goals.
Houston’s ball movement paved the way for 11 first-half assists. On the flip side, UC had five assists. The halftime score was 40-30 with Houston leading. Houston gained the lead thanks in part to the shooting of 46.2 from the land of three, knocking down six three-pointers.
Second half barn-burner
In the second half, every time UC appeared to cut into the lead, Houston had an answer. But, the Cougars weren’t able to hold as just under 8:30, UC was finally able to bring the score within single digits.
With the score tied 57-56, the crowd was back to their feet as Fifth Third Arena rocked! The game ultimately turned when DeJon Jarreau was ejected for biting Keith William’s leg as the teams fought under a scrum for the ball. UC was able to fight back by attacking the rim with 30 points in the paint.
The game was a total reversal as Houston produced eight assists and the Cougars three assists. For Houston, the ball was stuck and ball movement stopped. Houston had just one field goal in the final 11:30 of the game. UC took the lead with more than two minutes left, 61-59 and never gave it back.
“ Our fans were amazing and they showed up when we needed them,” Head Coach John Brannen said. “To come back like that and watch the crowd were really special. It was a tale of two halves. We were emotional and didn’t handle them making shoots very well. At halftime, I really worked on getting them to the emotional state they need to be. In the second half, we were really good and really defended.”
With Tulsa beating Witcha State, the Bearcats now sit in second place. Houston looks like they may fall out of the top 25. Cincinnati’s next game is against is Wichita State, while the Houston Cougars face Tulane Thursday.