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Cincinnati Finishes Strong, Defeating Houston, 70-59

Kevin Johnson leads the Bearcats offensively as the Cincinnati defense turns over Houston.

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati and Houston entered the game with question marks on both sides. Houston entered the game having played a soft schedule to a 13-2 overall record. Cincinnati entered the game failing to live up to preseason and early season hype. This game answered some of those questions with Cincinnati playing a balanced game, knocking down some shots and forcing the Cougars into mistakes en route to a 70-59 win over Houston, handing the Cougars their first conference loss of the season. It also means Cincinnati is now 3-2 in the American Athletic Conference.

Houston drew first blood with a Galen Robinson Jr. three-pointer and a Damyean Dotson three shortly after, giving the Cougars a quick 6-2 lead at Fifth Third Arena. Farad Cobb responded for the Bearcats, setting the tone for a efficient night from behind the arc for both teams.

At the 15-minute mark, Cincinnati had the first run of the game. The Bearcats led 9-8 before making a 15-5 run that resulted in a 24-13 Cincinnati lead with 11 minutes remaining in the first half. The Bearcats maintained their advantage through the rest of the first half, although Houston stuck around behind impressive three-point shooting. Houston knocked down 7-of-12 (58.3%) shots from behind the three-point line in the first half alone, allowing the Cougars to stay within 12 points heading into halftime. Cincinnati led 39-27 with the Bearcats defense really clamping down on Houston outside the three-point shooting.

Cincinnati forced Houston into 13 first half turnovers with the Bearcats only turning the ball over four times while securing eight steals. Cincinnati also had 11 assists as a team in the first half with their largest lead reaching 15 points.

While Houston struggled to knock down shots inside the three-point line in the first half, the Cougars started to find some success in the paint in the second half as they clawed back into the game. With Cincinnati leading 55-39, Houston went on a 12-2 run to pull within six points to a 57-51 score with just under eight minutes remaining in the game.

Kevin Johnson stopped the bleeding for the Bearcats, scoring a quick five points. Gary Clark added four points, pushing the Cincinnati lead back to 10. Cincinnati never let the Cougars back into the game and closed out the contest, winning 70-59.

Cincinnati was led by Johnson's 15 points, who hit 4-of-9 from three. Cobb and Clark each scored 14 points each and Octavius Ellis earned a double-double with 13 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. Clark secured seven rebounds and dished out a team-high six assists.

Cincinnati's defense was solid overall, forcing Houston into 17 total turnovers, with the Bearcats grabbing 10 steals. Cincinnati finished the game with 17 team assists compared to Houston's nine.

Houston was paced by LeRon Barnes, who scored 17 points, going 5-of-6 from three. Robinson Jr. scored 13 points and Dotson led the Cougars with 11 rebounds. As a team, Houston finished the game going 10-of-22 (45.5%) from behind the arc and 20-of-55 (36.4%) from the field. Cincinnati was better from the field, shooting 27-of-66 (40.9%), but were relatively ineffective from three, going 8-of-23 (34.8%).

It was a solid showing for the Bearcats who couldn't afford to fall to Houston. Cincinnati moves to 13-5 (3-2) on the season with a rematch with Temple on the docket. Cincinnati hits the road to play the Owls on Saturday, Jan. 16. The game tips off at noon on ESPNU and the WatchESPN App.