What a difference five minutes can make.
With 15:53 left to play in the second half the Bearcats trailed Temple 39-34. With 10:07 remaining they led 51-45. The lightning-fast 17-6 run propelled the Bearcats (16-2, 6-0 American) to their ninth straight victory, and second win over Temple (10-10, 1-6 American) this season.
Troy Caupain led the Bearcats with perhaps his most well-rounded performance of the season, scoring 18 points, and adding nine rebounds, and seven assists. The senior guard provided a big lift from the free-throw line where he hit 8 of 9 foul shots. The team shot 20 of 24 from the free-throw line, proving the difference in an 81-74 contest.
The first half didn’t go as planned for the Bearcats. After Cincinnati jumped out to a 6-0 lead, Temple quickly answered. The two teams exchanged leads throughout the rest of the half, with neither team ever taking control. A Jarron Cumberland three-pointer at the 8:41 mark gave the Bearcats an 18-13 lead, but the Owls responded to keep Cincinnati from creating any separation. Temple battled back to take a 28-26 lead into halftime thanks to a Quinton Rose layup with 27 seconds remaining.
The lone highlight of the half was unquestionably this sweet pass and dunk from Caupain to freshman Nysier Brooks.
Temple held the lead despite taking 15 less shots than the Bearcats and not grabbing a single offensive rebound. They hit an incredible 61.1% of their shots in the half, including 3-6 three pointers.
It looked like more of the same in the second half, with the Owls quickly extending their lead to 37-31. Kevin Johnson responded with his first made three pointer of the game, and the Bearcats offense was suddenly jumpstarted. After shooting just 11-33 (33.3%) in the first half, the Bearcats shot a sizzling 17-23 (73.9%) in the second half. Johnson, who didn’t score in the first half, scored 16 points in the second. Caupain only had four points in the first half and ended the game with 18 points.
The scored remained relatively close until the 7:23 mark when Caupain found Kevin Johnson in the corner for this pivotal three-pointer.
That shot pushed the Bearcats to a nine point lead, and Temple simply never recovered. The Owls would make a little run to get the score within two possessions, but they simply didn’t have the talent to overcome such a large deficit on the road.
Along with excellent free throw shooting, the Bearcats can also thank a commitment to ball movement for their win. Cincinnati had 23 assists on 28 made baskets, while Temple had just 14 on 27.
While Mick Cronin will undoubtedly be upset with his team for allowing Temple to score 46 points in the second half, it doesn’t change the fact that they’ve now won nine games in a row. They are definitely the best team in the American Athletic Conference, and with lowly Tulane standing between them and Xavier, will likely take a ten game winning streak into the Crosstown Shootout next Thursday.
Like I said earlier in the week, this team is special.