No. 10 Cincinnati, a team few discussed when assessing the American Athletic Conference race back in November, has proven to be the class of the conference to this point in the season thanks in large part to the play of their seniors. And that was once again the case on Saturday, as Sean Kilpatrick and Justin Jackson got going in the second half and led the Bearcats to their 17th home win of the season with solid second half performances.
Kilpatrick scored 19 of his 28 points in the second half and Jackson added 13 points and five rebounds (all in the second half) as Cincinnati beat Houston 73-62. The Bearcats shot nearly 61% from the field in the second half, and while the Cougars were also good offensively the turnovers made the difference. Cincinnati committed just one turnover in the second half (four for the game), and they converted six Houston turnovers into 11 points.
The Bearcats can be too reliant on Kilpatrick at times when it comes to putting points on the board, with their other options being most effective in odd-man and second-chance situations. But aiming to limit Cincinnati’s points in these areas and actually doing so are two entirely different matters, which is what Houston learned the hard way on Saturday.
The 17 points off of 13 Houston turnovers and 18 second-chance points contributed to the Bearcats scoring 1.35 points per possession, their highest mark since scoring 1.42 points/possession in a win over Chicago State on December 23. Cincinnati may struggle at times in its half-court offense but they do a very good job of taking advantage of turnovers and the offensive glass in order to make up for that, and this was the case on Saturday afternoon.
With games remaining against the top four teams in the American, the title race is nowhere near complete for Cincinnati. But if their seniors continue to bring the energy and leadership this group needs, the Bearcats are more than capable of continuing their march towards a conference title that few gave them a chance of winning before the season began.