This season has been rough on Cincinnati fans and tonight was no different as the Cincinnati Bearcats lost a heartbreaking overtime thriller to the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, 70-68. This game had a little bit of everything; good/bad defense, good/bad offense, mental errors, late turnovers and even a full-court shot before halftime that ultimately accounted for the difference in this game.
Cincinnati actually started this one fast, jumping out to a 14-6 lead over the opening seven minutes of the game, keyed by solid defensive play that limited the Tulsa offense. Despite the lead, the Bearcats weren't necessarily firing on all cylinders offensively themselves, but continued to maintain their lead throughout the first half.
Tulsa would close the gap to three with 8:56 remaining in the half when the score was 20-17. Cincinnati would pull away again, scoring six points between Octavius Ellis and Gary Clark, but Tulsa was persistent, eventually cutting the deficit to three points once again only minutes later on a James Woodard three-pointer.
With just over five minutes remaining in the first half and a 26-23 lead, the Bearcats found a bit of a rhythm, going on a 6-1 run, giving Cincinnati a 32-24 lead with only seconds left on the clock before the break. Off a defensive rebound, Woodard would take the ball and launch a 75-foot shot that would find the back of the net, turning an eight-point halftime advantage for the Bearcats into a mere five-point lead at the break. Cincinnati led 32-27 as both teams headed into the locker room.
James Woodard to beat the buzzer https://t.co/yAD4RFgaHj— Bearcats Blog (@BearcatsBlog) February 19, 2016
The first half was dominated by Clark. The sensational sophomore entered halftime with 13 points and five rebounds for the Bearcats. Simple math shows that Clark scored nearly half of Cincinnati's first half total. Ellis had five points and five boards, but it was Troy Caupain who led the Bearcats with six rebounds. Jacob Evans bounced back from a couple early defensive blunders and entered the break with eight points.
While Cincinnati had the fast start to open the game, Tulsa came out of half firing with some momentum after Woodard's buzzer beater. The Golden Hurricane started the second half on a 7-2 run, pulling the game to a 34-34 tie with 16:29 remaining in the game. From that point on, Cincinnati and Tulsa were in a back and forth struggle.
The Bearcats found baskets, mostly through Clark and Caupain, while Tulsa drove into the paint, hit shots from the free throw line and shot efficiently from deep. Cincinnati's largest lead the rest of the way would be a five-point lead with 9:18 remaining in regulation.
As the second half entered it's closing minutes, Cincinnati and Tulsa traded baskets, and the lead, with nearly each possession. For every shot the Bearcats hit, Tulsa would respond quickly with a basket of their own.
With one minute remaining in regulation, Cincinnati trailed 62-60, coming out of a UC timeout. Despite being setup for an easy layup/dunk, Ellis missed the basket near the rim, giving the ball back to the Golden Hurricane. Tulsa was unable to score, giving Cincinnati the ball back with the clock rolling down. Mick Cronin would take a timeout with six seconds remaining, setting up for one last chance, trailing by two. Caupain would find his way into the paint and knockdown the equalizer, sending the game into overtime.
The anxiety inducing game continued for another session as overtime began. Bouncing back from the missed layup, Ellis scored the first two points of the extra period, knocking down two free throws. Woodard would respond for the Golden Hurricane, tying the game again, this time at 64.
With 1:23 remaining, Evans would steal the ball, but would be fouled by Tulsa's Marquel Curtis. Evans would only hit one of his two free throws, giving the Bearcats a 65-64 lead. Tulsa would respond with a Rashad Smith jumper off an offensive rebound, giving them a 66-65 lead with 1:00 remaining.
Cincinnati couldn't find the back of the net on their next possession. A Bearcats foul sent Smith to the line with 31 seconds left. Smith missed the free throw, but a called lane violation on Clark, sent the Golden Hurricane back to the line. This time, Shaquille Harrison took the shots and knocked down both of them, giving Tulsa a 68-65 lead with 31 seconds remaining.
Caupain drew the foul on the resulting Cincinnati possession, setting up a one-and-one. He knocked down both, pulling the Bearcats within one-point. With Tulsa in-bounding the ball, Cincinnati forced Woodard to lose the ball, out on Tulsa, putting possession back with the Bearcats.
Cincinnati took possession and found Evans for a three-point attempt. Evans was unable to connect on the shot though. As Clark and Woodard went for the rebound, the ball went out of bounds with possession given to Tulsa. After consulting the video monitor, the call stood.
The Bearcats fouled Pat Birt, who hit both free throws, leaving Cincinnati with seven seconds to go the length of the floor, trailing 70-67.
Tulsa fouled Caupain, sending him to the line with four seconds remaining. Caupain made the first, tried to intentionally miss the second, but didn't hit the rim. Even though Tulsa turned the ball over on the next in-bounds pass, Shaq Thomas was unable to connect on the desperation three, leading to a 70-68 loss for Cincinnati.
Clark led the Bearcats with 18 points, while Caupain and Ellis finished with 15 and 11, respectively. All three also secured nine rebounds each. Woodard led the way for Tulsa, scoring 19 points, including the desperation three-pointer that earned three points in a game decided by two.
The Bearcats and Golden Hurricane were largely the same statistically in most categories. However, Cincinnati only went 10-of-17 (58.8%) from the free throw line compared to 15-of-20 (75%) for Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane also went 5-of-13 (38.5%) from three, while Cincinnati could only knockdown 8-of-28 (28.6%) from deep.
Cincinnati drops to 19-8 (9-5) on the season with the loss, severely hurting their NCAA Tournament hopes. It won't mean much of anything on the tournament resume, but the Bearcats have now lost six of their eight games this season by two points or less. The other two losses were decided by seven (at Temple) and four (at Memphis).
The Bearcats have a quick turnaround as they host UConn Saturday.