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Johnson leads Bearcats to 68-54 victory

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Bearcats shutdown Bulls

NCAA Basketball: Cincinnati at Southern Methodist Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati pulled out a 68-54 victory thanks to 14 points and three steals from senior Kevin Johnson. Johnson quickly scored the first five points of the game, to set the tone for Cincinnati early. Cincinnati led by as much as 20 points, and the game was never truly in doubt.

While the Bearcats pulled out a comfortable win, it was a far cry from their 41-point victory against South Florida just a few weeks ago. Cincinnati was out-rebounded for the fourth time in the past five games, but they forced a staggering 13 steals to help secure the win.

Cincinnati jumped out to a 12-5 lead thanks to seven early points from Johnson. A basket by Kyle Washington would stretch the lead to 11 points with less than four minutes remaining, but the Bulls made a quick run at the end of the half to cut the lead to 28-22 before a last second by Gary Clark gave Cincinnati an 8 point advantage at the break.

Cincinnati scored the first eight points of the second half to stretch the lead to 16 points, and the Bulls struggled to cut into the deficit the rest of the game. Four out of five Cincinnati starters scored in double figures, with Gary Clark adding 13 points and 14 rebounds.

This game was won by Cincinnati’s defense, which forced 21 total turnovers. Every South Florida player that entered the game turned the ball over at least two times.

The only South Florida player to score in double figures was Geno Thorpe, who scored 19 points in the game. However, Thorpe shot just 4-13 from the field in route to those 19 points.

This wasn’t a comforting win for Cincinnati fans who just watched the Bearcats suffer their first loss since December 10th on Sunday. They didn’t exactly dominate the worst team in the conference. A conference road win, is a conference road win, but this one lacked the kind of punch Bearcats fans have come to expect against a lesser opponent.

Troy Caupain struggled for the second game in a row, scoring just eight points, and adding one point with three assists. He was the only starter not to score in double figures.

The most positive sign was the production from both Kyle Washington and Gary Clark. The interior duo combined for 26 points, 23 rebounds, and six blocked shots to set the tone for Cincinnati.

Next up is a home game against a frisky Tulsa team on Saturday that nearly beat Cincinnati in Tulsa just a couple of weeks ago. The Bearcats will have to pick up their level of play if they hope to start a new winning streak against the Golden Hurricane.