Well that was easy.
Cincinnati (21-2, 10-0 American) beat Connecticut (10-12, 5-5 American) 82-68 in front of a sellout crowd at Fifth Third Arena on Saturday afternoon. The game wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate.
Even with Connecticut in the midst of their worst season since 86-87, Bearcats fans can be forgiven for expecting Saturday’s game to be a nail-biting battle of epic proportions. This is the same program Cincinnati fought in a four-overtime thriller in last season’s AAC tournament. Instead, Cincinnati led by as much as 26 points, and fans were chanting ‘We Want Tobler’ around the ten minute mark of the second half. Oh how the might have fallen.
The Bearcats jumped out to an early 10-7 lead thanks to eight points in just under seven minutes from Kyle Washington. Washington scored a career-high 27 points on the night, hitting 11 of 18 shots from the field. The Huskies kept the score relatively close in the first half until three straight made three pointers by Jarron Cumberland, Kevin Johnson, and Quadri Moore stretched the lead to 28-18. Cincinnati would go to halftime with a 34-26 lead, led by 13 points from Washington.
Things got out of control in the second half because Gary Clark was finally a problem again. Clark had struggled in the previous six games, averaging just 8.2 points per game in that stretch. The returning AAC Defensive Player of the Year dominated offensively during a key 18-5 run about midway through the second half. Clark hit back-to-back three pointers and then scored on an impressive rebound and put back for his own 8-0 run.
The Bearcats would eventually stretch the lead to 69-43 with 9:39 left to play thanks to an 8-0 run by freshman Jarron Cumberland and a three pointer from Kyle Washington. The Huskies would outscore the Bearcats 25-13 the rest of the way, but the game was effectively finished once Washington hit that three pointer with 9:39 to play.
Perhaps the most encouraging sign for Cincinnati in this game is that they did it without much offensive production from leading-scorer, Jacob Evans and floor general, Troy Caupain. Evans didn’t score a point all game, and took just three shots. Caupain scored just seven points, but added six assists and just one turnover.
This was the 14th straight victory for the Bearcats who improved to 10-0 in American conference play. With the exception of a game against South Florida on February 15th, every single remaining game has the potential to be a tough battle. Next week the Bearcats will face Central Florida and their 7-6 freshman center, Tacko Fall before going on the road to face an SMU team they just barely defeated in Cincinnati.