After climbing their way into the national rankings, it would have been quite a letdown if the Cincinnati Bearcats lost their first game since being tabbed the No. 25 team in the country. Despite some poor play, especially in the first half, the Bearcats avoided such a fate, taking down the Memphis Tigers 69-64 at FedExForum on Thursday night.
UC (20-3, 9-1 American Athletic Conference) entered halftime with a 35-29 deficit but stormed back over the final 20 minutes, shooting 47 percent along the way to secure their eighth-straight victory. Jarron Cumberland paced the Bearcats with 17 points on just 4-of-11 shooting, including a 2-for-6 mark from beyond the arc. He scored 12 of those points in the second half when he also went 5-for-6 at the foul line. Justin Jenifer and Trevon Scott both scored nine points apiece to keep the Bearcats afloat in the first half when the team hit just 32 percent from the field. Jenifer finished with 14 points and Scott added 13 and nine rebounds.
Jeremiah Martin drained 8-of-14 three-pointers and ended with a game-high 26 points, but it wasn’t enough for Memphis (13-10, 5-5), which went ice cold in the second half. During those final 20 minutes, the Tigers were held to 39 percent shooting and outscored 9-2 at the free-throw line. Memphis suffered a 12-4 overall scoring deficit at the charity stripe, which could have been a lot worse if the Bearcats hit better than the 54.5 percent they managed.
Along with a higher volume of foul shots, the Bearcats outworked Memphis on the glass (38-32) and outscored them 12-7 on second chance points.
Another slow start could be lethal for Cincinnati in its next game. The Bearcats will travel to face No. 12 Houston on Sunday in a showdown for sole possession of first place in the AAC.