Bad free throw shooting and a porous defense resulted in Cincinnati’s 88-64 win over Tulsa on Thursday.
Only two weeks removed from a heartbreaking overtime loss to Cincinnati at the Reynolds Center, the Golden Hurricane men’s basketball team traveled to the home court of the Bearcats with their season on the line. But rather than exact revenge, TU ending up falling again to their rivals — this time in an 88-64 blowout.
Jarron Cumberland led the scoring for Cincinnati with 23 points, along with five assists. Point guard Justin Jenifer, held to just two points in the teams’ first meeting, scored 18 on six three pointers. Tre Scott also contributed a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Tulsa saw four starters in double figures plus a career-high 10 points from Darien Jackson off the bench. Sterling Taplin led the team with 12 points and seven assists but made just one of nine two-point attempts. The team as a whole shot an unacceptable 42 percent from the free throw line and was outrebounded 44-26.
From the first possession, everything seemingly went the Bearcats’ way. Just one minute into the game, Martins Igbanu had committed an offensive foul, Jenifer had knocked down his first three and Cumberland connected with Scott on a highlight reel alley-oop from half court. The lead would extend to as many as 15 in the first half, as Cincinnati was able to respond every time Tulsa hit a shot that looked like it might start a run. The ball pinged around the perimeter out of the reach of the matchup zone, and TU’s defenders were left scrambling time and again as their opponents effortlessly knocked down open shot after open shot.
The second half began in a scoring frenzy with both teams converting on four of their first five possessions, and when Taplin hit a three-pointer to bring the deficit back to single digits, it looked like the Golden Hurricane might finally be able to make a game out of it. Five minutes and a string of missed shots later, Cincinnati had put the game away by opening up a 21-point lead.
In the game’s closing minutes, sophomore transfer Peter Hewitt saw action for the third time this season and scored his first points as a member of the Golden Hurricane.
Feel-good stories for Jackson and Hewitt aside, this was a devastating blow for a Tulsa team that desperately needed a win against a quality team to stay in the hunt in the hyper-competitive American Conference. The loss dropped the team to 12-8, and just 2-5 in conference play. What began as a season in which an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament loomed as a legitimate possibility has become an endeavor to avoid the basement of the AAC. Going forward over the next month and a half, it will rest on the shoulders of seniors Taplin and DaQuan Jeffries to finish strong and make some kind of noise as the team moves past the most difficult part of its schedule.