Just two weeks after grinding out an overtime win on the road against them, the Cincinnati Bearcats will have to deal with the Tulsa Golden Hurricane once more when the two teams clash at Fifth Third Arena Thursday night.
Since ripping a 70-65 overtime victory from the jaws of defeat in Tulsa, the Bearcats have been rolling. They’ve won four-straight games, and even if they’ve all been pretty taxing affairs, the final results have been the preferred type. Thanks to their recent winning streak, the Bearcats are now 16-3 overall and half a game out of first place in the American Athletic Conference at 5-1 in league play. With three of their next four games after this one taking place on the road, earning a win at home on Thursday is more important than usual.
Reintroducing the Tulsa Golden Hurricane
Tulsa has also proven to be a tough out for teams other than the Bearcats, fueled by an exceptional success rate at home (10-1). The Golden Hurricane didn’t have that going for them last time out, but they still put on a solid show, losing by a slim 64-62 margin to UCF this past Saturday. They actually led by as many as 15 points in the game, but came up short when they made only seven field goals in the final 20 minutes. Despite putting up such a competitive front, Tulsa doesn’t have a lot to show for it, with a 2-4 mark in AAC competition and a 12-7 overall mark.
Since its only been two weeks since the Bearcats last saw them, not much has changed in how the Golden Hurricane approach games. They like to get out and run, move the ball all over the floor and let it rain from three-point range. They are shooting the highest percentage from deep among conference teams since the league schedule took hold (40.7 percent) and they are second in assists (82). Despite that, they still aren’t an overly effective offense, averaging 67.8 points per game against conference foes while ranking 169th in the country in adjusted offense (104.4 points per 100 possessions).
The core of the team is built around three players in DaQuan Jeffries, Martins Igbanu and Sterling Taplin.
Jeffries does just about everything, including leading the team in scoring (13.5 PPG) on a true shooting rate of 63.8 percent, buoyed by efficiency from beyond the arc and at the line. He also leads the team in rebounds and is averaging a steal and a block per game. Igabnu is a pretty reliable scorer himself (12.1 PPG) and one of the better rebounders on the team. Taplin flashes great playmaking ability (4.4 APG) with his ability to light it up (9.9 PPG).
In addition to the big three, Jeriah Horne has emerged as an important scorer off the bench. He is averging 11.7 points per game and netting an even 50 percent of his threes in conference play. In Tulsa’s 89-83 win against UConn last week, Horne scored a career-high 27 points on 8-of-11 shooting in 28 minutes, extending his streak of games in double figures to three. He only scored six points last time out, but the potential is always there for him to go off.
Recapping the First Meeting
Cincinnati was pretty fortunate in its win against Tulsa two weeks ago. The Bearcats trailed by six points with just over a minute to play but a clutch performance from Cane Broome down the stretch saved them. Broome finished with a team-high 16 points, 14 of which he scored in the final six minutes of regulation.
The Bearcats were brought to the brink primarily because of a breakdown in three-point defense. The Golden Hurricane made 14 triples in the contest on 60.9 percent shooting. Jeffries, who paced his side with 14 points, drained three treys as one of six Tulsa players to net at least two. UC did its best to counter, making nine threes, but they took eight more attempts and shot just 29 percent from long range.
This was also not a banner game on an individual level for Justin Jenifer and Nysier Brooks. Jenifer had two points and an assist in only 13 minutes and Brooks was limited to two points and four boards in 23 minutes. Even the players who had better games weren’t exactly dominant, with Jarron Cumberland going 2-for-8 from three while turning the ball over four times.
Aside from Broome’s heriocs, the Bearcats won this game because they forced 22 turnovers and outscored Tulsa 22-4 in the paint and 12-4 on second chance points. On Thursday, if the Golden Hurricane aren’t knocking down long shots at such an incredible rate, the Bearcats will have a clear advantage.
Even if Tulsa really is the best three-point shooting team in the AAC, there is no way it can make another 14 threes on 60 percent shooting. With homecourt advantage this time around, the Bearcats should be able to force a few more misses and use their advantage on the interior to build a lead. Hopefully they won’t have to go to overtime to hold it either. Cincinnati 74 Tulsa 65