Houston backs up #1 ranking with 67-59 win over Cincinnati

Cincinnati fought til the end, but it simply wasn't enough.

The Bearcats (16-12, 5-10) have now lost three straight games following Tuesday night's 67-59 loss to the #1-ranked Houston Cougars (25-3, 12-3).

The loss is the eleventh consecutive loss to Kelvin Sampson and the Cougars and was the ninth time that the Bearcats have been held under 60 points during the losing streak. 

Wes Miller and his staff put an emphasis on toughness and pursuit of the ball on rebounds over the past few days while preparing for the best defensive team in the country.

"Putting a body on them isn't enough," Miller told Dan Hoard before the game when discussing the preparation. 

Preparing for Houston isn't easy. You have to match their defensive intensity and aggressiveness or you will be buried quickly. 

Cincinnati out-rebounded the Cougars 42-30, a rare feat for anyone against Kelvin Sampson's team. 

As well as the Bearcats did on the boards, they struggled again taking care of the ball and finished with 19 turnovers to go with multiple missed layups and easy looks at the rim during the first four minutes of the game.

"19 turnover is not going to cut it when you're playing against a team of their caliber," Miller tolld reporters following the game. "We gotta be a little better with the basketball. Their defense is active and forces turnovers."

Cincinnati started the game 1-of-10 from the field and trailed 7-2 at the first media timeout. Aziz Bandaogo's dunk with 16:38 remaining in the first half would end a streak of seven consecutive misses to start the game. 

Houston's 7-0 run over 1:29 out of the under 16 media timeout extended their lead to 14-2 with 14 minutes left in the 1st half, prompting Wes Miller to call a timeout and try to stop the Houston momentum.

"I thought early on, we came out with a lot of pop. There was just a lid on the basket, said Miller.

"I've coached against Houston now three years, and it's hard to get quality shots, but we did that today and just couldn't make them. If you don't make those, you'll get in a hole."

(AP Photo)

Despite a two minute 56 second scoring drought by Houston, the Bearcats still trailed 14-4 at the 11:05 mark and were 2-of-15 from the field after missing four consecutive shots following offensive rebounds. 

Cincinnati would weather the storm and cut the Houston lead to 16-11 after a Simas Lukosius three with 8:11 left in the half.

The Cougars missed 10-of-11 shots during a three minute 16 second scoring drought to aid the 7-0 Bearcat run. 

We have seen this team put together runs against good teams all season and then follow it up with a long scoring drought to take them out of a game and stop their momentum.

After Lukosius three at the 8:11 mark, the Bearcats would be held without a field goal until there were 46 seconds left in the half. 

Still, UC trailed 23-17 following Day Day Thomas jumper with 9 seconds left in the half. 

Houston was held without a field goal over the final 5:04 and missed five consecutive shots.

It looked like Cincinnati would go in to the half with some energy and momentum but Emmanuel Sharp ended the half with a dagger three from the wing just before the buzzer to give Houston a 26-17 halftime lead. 

Both teams struggled offensively in the first half.

Cincinnati finished 7-of-27 from the field, while Houston made just 10-of-33 field goal attempts. LJ Cryer was the most consistent player on the floor, scoring 15 first half points. 

The Baylor transfer would finish with 22 points on 7-of-15 shooting and four 3-pointers to lead all scorers.

Houston's ball pressure and aggressive defense led to 10 Cincinnati turnovers in the first half.

Coming out of the half, It didn't take long for the game to reach blowout status once the second half began.

Simas Lukosius three with 18:15 left in the game was followed by an 8-0 Houston run over the next 44 seconds to extend the Houston lead to 38-21.

Emmanuel Sharp's back-to-back three's during the run forced Wes Miller to call a quick timeout as the Cougars were rolling. 

Jizzle James capped off a 6-0 run over the next 1:27 with a dunk in transition, but LJ Cryer answered with a three at the other end to end the Bearcat run.


(Photo: Michael Wyke / AP )

Houston missed six of their next seven field goal attempts but their lead was pushed back to 15, 45-30, with 11:16 remaining after a Ja'Vier Francis floater in the lane.

An 8-2 run by UC over the next 2:49 cut the Houston lead to 47-38 with 8:27 left in the game.

Jizzle James and John Newman hit consecutive three-pointers to key a 6-0 run over 53 seconds. 

The Newman three would be the beginning of yet another field goal drought.

With 3:30 remaining in the game, UC found themselves down 57-44 and hadn't scored a field goal in over five minutes.

Day Day Thomas ended the drought out of the final media timeout to cut the Houston lead to 57-46 with 3:19 left in the game.


Houston was held without a field goal over the final 4:49 of the game but the closest Cincinnati could get was six points.

Dan Skillings' steal and layup with 1:26 left cut Houston's lead to 64-58.

LJ Cryer made two free throws on the next possession following a James foul to push the lead back to 8.

The Cougars made 11-of-14 free throws during their field goal drought to prevent the Bearcats from completing the comeback. 

Final Stats and Notes:

Lakhin's Back

Viktor Lakhin finished with 11 points, 9 rebounds in 21 minutes tonight. After a four game slump, having him back to himself was a good sign for Cincinnati with the Bearcats likely needing to win their final three games and a game or two in the conference tournament to get back in to contention for the NCAA Tournament. Lakhin finished 5-of-6 from the field.

Jamal Shead and the Bearcat defense

Shead was coming off a Big 12 and Naismith Trophy player of the week after wins over Iowa State and Baylor but finished with 9 points, 11 assists on 2-of-11 from the field. Shead is now 8-of-36 from the field in two games against Cincinnati.

While wins are more important, defensive performances like this from two young, inexperienced lead guards in Thomas and James is a good sign for the program moving forward. There needs to be more consistency game to game but the ability is there. 

Additional Opportunities

In a game where Cincinnati struggled with scoring and field goal droughts, they still finished 21-of-53 from the field, which is slightly above the 37.6% that Houston typically allows. UC was able to turn 10 Houston turnovers in to 19 points and 12 second chance points off 15 offensive rebounds. Aziz Bandaogo (7 pts) and Jamille Reynolds (6 pts, 7 rbs) combined for 13 of UC's 30 points in the paint. 

Wing Play

Simas Lukosius continued to play well, finishing with 11 points on the strength of 3-of-6 shooting from the perimeter. Dan Skillings struggled for most of the game but finished the game with 8 points in the final 5:43, while also pulling down 8 rebounds. 

Final Thoughts:

There are no moral victories at this point in the season, but the Bearcats fought and responded to every Houston run that was thrown at them. This game could have looked much different is Cincinnati is able to convert the easy looks that they got at the rim to start the game. 

Turnovers are still a problem and something that has to be corrected but the Bearcats won every other statistical category. This team isn't as far off as some will believe following a three-game losing skid. 


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