CINCINNATI (AP) Confetti floated from the rafters and covered the court at the final buzzer. Cincinnati finished its perfect home season with a flourish.
Gary Clark had 14 points and seven rebounds in a balanced attack, and the 18th-ranked Bearcats rolled to their 26th straight win at home, 65-47 over Houston on Thursday night.
Cincinnati (26-4, 15-2 American Athletic) wrapped up its fourth undefeated season at Fifth Third Arena, which opened in 1989. The Bearcats’ home winning streak is the second-longest at the arena. They won 41 in a row from 1997-2000.
“We knew it would be a big part of our success, honestly,” said guard Kevin Johnson, one of three seniors honored before the game. “We always try to put on a show here.”
They will play at Northern Kentucky University next season while Fifth Third is renovated.
“It was a great way to close out Fifth Third Arena, to dominate the way we did,” coach Mick Cronin said. “Defensively we were as good as we’ve been in a long, long time.”
Houston (20-9, 11-6 ) came in with the second-best offense in the league but came away with its lowest point total of the season. Rob Gray led with 17 points.
The Cougars also lead the league in fewest turnovers, averaging 9.8. They had 13 against the Bearcats. Houston got outrebounded 40-24.
“They scored 22 points off our turnovers,” said coach Kelvin Sampson, who is 1-7 in his career against Cincinnati. “It’s the ballgame. And then they were just way more physical on the boards.”
Damyean Dotson made a 3-pointer in the closing minutes after missing on his first four tries, giving him the Houston record of 29 consecutive games with a 3. He moved one ahead of Robert McKiver’s mark from 2007-08.
The Bearcats took control by closing the first half with a 20-4 run for a 37-20 lead, Houston’s lowest-scoring half of the season. Two of their three worst games offensively this season came against the Bearcats.
“The way we play our matchup zone is really tough for them,” Johnson said.
Houston: The Cougars lead the league at making 3s, shooting 39.8 percent from beyond the arc. Two of their worst games have come against Cincinnati. They went 3 of 19 during a 67-58 loss to the Bearcats on Jan. 7 and 5 of 19 on Thursday night.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats also went undefeated at Fifth Third during the 1992-93, 1998-99 and 2001-02 seasons.
The Bearcats slipped three spots after a 53-49 loss at UCF on Sunday, but stabilized with a convincing win over the Cougars.
Houston forward Kyle Meyer picked up two fouls in the opening 2:42 of the game and went to the bench. He started the second half but got a cut above his right eye early in the half and went for treatment. He played only 13 minutes overall, getting two points and four rebounds.
OUT OF TIME
The Cougars tried to call a timeout with 41.8 seconds left, but they were out of timeouts and got a technical foul.
Cincinnati senior walk-on Zack Tobler started the game, got the ball for the opening basket and then went to the bench with an ovation from the fans. He also got back in the game late and made a free throw after Houston’s technical foul.
Houston: The Cougars close the regular season at home on Sunday against East Carolina, the final game at Hofheinz Pavilion before it’s renovated for the 2018-19 season. Houston won at East Carolina 74-58 on Jan. 11.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats play at UConn on Sunday. They beat the Huskies 82-68 at Fifth Third Arena on Feb. 4.
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