The Cincinnati Bearcats returned to Fifth Third Arena on a cold Thursday night after a tough loss in conference play to Temple on Saturday. The Bearcats battled with the Tigers all night, but unlike previous home losses to Butler and Iowa State the boys from Clifton prevailed making key plays in pivotal moments down the stretch.
The first half the offense was rolling. They shot 58% from the field and led by as many as 8 points. One of the positive signs from Mick Cronin’s group was the points in the paint. They outscored Memphis 22-10 in that department. Shaquille Thomas was active getting to rim creating opportunities for himself and others. Troy Caupain led the Bearcats with 15 points at the half. Defensively the Bearcats held the Tigers to 48% shooting from the field and only 4 fast break points. That’s pretty good considering the high scoring team Memphis has been this year with great guard play on the perimeter. The Bearcats led 41-38 at the half.
In the second half the Bearcats offensive production was consistent throughout. The ball movement continued and they led by as many as 9 points with 10 minutes remaining. Thomas hit Gary Clark for an alley oop in transition that got the crowd to their feet and put the Bearcats up 6. Every time it seemed like the Bearcats were pulling away the Tigers always seemed to have an answer. The Tigers answered with a 9-0 run of their own making the score 60-60. There were five lead changes in the second half, but the difference tonight was the Bearcats getting key defensive stops in big moments. That led to Caupain hitting four clutch free throws in the final two minutes to seal the game 76-72
The only negative take away from the game was the lack of bench production. Tigers outscored the Bearcats 45-13. Kevin Johnson led the bench with 9 points and 4 rebounds. The key for this team’s success is better production from the bench if they want to make a run in March.
Troy Caupain finished with 25 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 steals. Shaq Thomas added 18 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks.
The Bearcats will continue conference play Sunday as they take on Tulane at Fifth Third Arena.