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Bearcats avoid collapse, beat Memphis 87-74

Cincinnati improves to 14-1 in conference play

NCAA Basketball: Memphis at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati (25-3, 14-1 American) won their third straight game with a 87-74 victory over Memphis (18-10, 8-7 American) on Thursday. The Bearcats led by as much as 24 points, but the Tigers cut the lead to six points in the second half before Cincinnati eventually pulled away.

Cincinnati got off to a hot start, grabbing a 32-13 lead in the first 12 minutes, led by eight points from Jacob Evans. The Bearcats pushed the lead to 24 points on a Quadri Moore three pointer with 3:44 to play in the first half, before Memphis cut the lead to 51-32 at halftime. The Bearcats shot 58% from the field in the first half including 50% from behind the three point line.

Memphis used a 17-5 run midway through the second half to make the game competitive. Jeremiah Martin scored and drew a foul to cut the deficit to six points with under six minutes remaining. Martin would score a game-high 23 points on the night and add a season-high 11 assists. During the postgame press conference, Bearcats coach Mick Cronin said of Martin “that’s a big time night” and that “he played as good as anyone played against us all year”.

Jacob Evans scored 12 points in the first half, and just four in the second half, but perhaps none bigger than the three pointer he hit after Martin’s three-point play. The three pointer from Evans extended the Bearcats lead back to nine points, and secured the victory for Cincinnati.

The Bearcats shot a shocking 82.1% from the free throw line hitting 23 of 28 shots. Cincinnati has struggled with free throws at various times this season, but the charity stripe proved to be the difference in tonight’s game. Kyle Washington led the way hitting all six of his attempts.

The Cincinnati bench also came through with a solid performance. All five players played well, and contributed a total of 20 points, shooting 8-8 from the free throw line. Jarron Cumberland was the leading scorer off the bench with nine points, two rebounds, and four assists.

Memphis shot 54.4% from the field, becoming one of the few teams to eclipse the 50% mark against the Bearcats this season. After the game, Cronin said “our defense was non-existent tonight”. The difference really was at the free throw line where the Tigers attempted just 12 shots and Cincinnati made 23 of them.

Troy Caupain continued his stellar play of late, scoring 12 points and adding three rebounds, seven assists, and three steals. He turned the ball over just one time, and has now only had five turnovers in past 316 minutes played — an astonishing ratio for someone that controls the ball on every possession.

Next up for the Bearcats is a trip to Central Florida on Sunday for a rematch against the Knights. Cincinnati beat UCF 60-50 at Fifth Third Bank Arena on February 8th, but were held to just 35.4% shooting on the night.