Sean Kilpatrick scored 29 points to lead the way for No. 15 Cincinnati in a win over Temple on Sunday afternoon, but moving to 8-0 in AAC play was a much tougher task than the Bearcats expected.
Playing without Justin Jackson for much of the game after the senior center injured his ankle, Cincinnati still managed to push a 10-point halftime lead to 19 with just 13 minutes left in the game. That’s when Dalton Pepper took over.
Temple’s senior guard put on one of the more impressive scoring displays that you’ll see this season, scoring 22 points and hitting six threes in the final 13 minutes as the Owls went on a 39-20 run to tie the game at 76. It was Pepper’s three in the final minute that evened the score. But on the ensuing possession, Kilpatrick was foul driving to the basket. He hit both free throws, and Jermaine Sanders blocked Josh Brown’s shot at the other end, sealing an 80-76 win.
It was the first time this season that Cincinnati’s defense broke down, and it surely wasn’t a coincidence that their best defender — Jackson — was sitting on the bench nursing an injury. No one had scored more than 67 points on Mick Cronin’s team this season. The last time they allowed 76 points in a game was when they lost to Ohio State in the 2012 NCAA tournament.
That’s concerning for the Bearcats because they will be paying a visit to the Yum! Center to take on Louisville on Saturday. The Cards are currently sitting in second place in the conference standings.
It’s too early to know if Jackson will be available on Thursday. But without him, the Bearcats gave up 50 second half points to a team that’s 0-7 in the AAC. That’s not an ideal way to go into the biggest game of their season.