CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati men’s basketball team looks to continue its winning ways with its tallest test of the season Sunday in No. 2 Houston, the highest-ranked opponent in Fifth Third Arena since 2007. Tip-off is at 3 p.m., and limited tickets remain to see the AAC’s two winningest programs in the league’s history (Cincinnati 116, Houston 111).
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Cincinnati rebounded in a profound way from its New Year’s Day loss at Temple, controlling the Wichita State game throughout for a 70-61 road win Thursday night. The Bearcats led by 17 at the half and were paced by Jeremiah Davenport’s season-high 22 points (6-9 3FG), which coincided with the end of his 52-game start streak. It even marked the most points by a UC reserve since Jarron Cumberland in Jan. 2017. Landers Nolley II (12 points, 11 rebounds) also recorded his first double-double of the season.
UC went 13-for-29 as a team from deep (44.8 percent), both marking season-highs by any Shocker opponent against the AAC’s second-stingiest defense. It was also the team’s first win without a David DeJulius double-figure scoring game since Jan. 12, 2022 against ECU. Viktor Lakhin (14 points) was one rebound shy of his sixth double-double, but he did reach double-digits for a team-leading 12th-straight game. He is ninth nationally at 65.6 percent from the field. He also leads UC with 7.8 rpg and 17 blocks, while ranking third with 17 steals.
Cincinnati is 9-0 when winning the boards battle and 11-1 when up at the half. The Wichita State first half alone was a plus-10 margin after suffering a minus-18 at Temple. The Bearcats’ best statistical feat is that its 22nd nationally in fewest turnovers per game (10.8) and 29th in assist-turnover ratio (1.44). Houston is the highest-ranked opponent in Fifth Third Arena since No. 2 Memphis in 2007. With a win, it would be Cincinnati’s highest since No. 2 Syracuse in the 2012 BIG EAST Semifinals, which was just the Orange’s second loss that year.
Cincinnati leads the all-time series 33-11, including an 11-10 mark as AAC rivals. The Bearcats also won 27 of the first 28 meetings (1957-2016). These future Big 12 foes faced each other in three-straight AAC Championship games, with UC coming out on top in 2018 and 2019. The two teams were also the top seeds in 2020, but the tourney never began due to COVID-19. UH won in the 2021 clash.
The Bearcats trailed by as many as 21 points in the first half of last year’s meeting in Fifth Third Arena, but 18 points from DeJulius before the break kept UC in the game. Trailing 40-19, Cincinnati closed the first half on a 12-2 run as DeJulius made a second-chance three-pointer and a contested jumper during the run and he Lakhin for a corner three-pointer to cut the deficit to 11 and electrified the nearly-sold-out crowd 30 seconds before the break. The Bearcats trailed by eight, but came up short on a third-chance possession early in the second half before the Cougars notched a three to end the rally.
On March 1 in Houston, the Cougars hit a three at the buzzer to take a 38-34 lead amidst a very back-and-forth period, but they opened a 48-38 lead at 14:15 and held UC at bay the rest of the way. In the AAC Quarterfinals, Cincinnati continued to improve against the Cougars, this time leading by 10 early in the second half. UH responded wih a 10-0 run of its own to lead for good by the 14-minute mark.
When Memphis knocked off No. 6 Houston on Feb. 12, 2022, Nolley had a game-high 20 points (4-5 3FG).
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