NEW ORLEANS — Kyle Washington had 16 points, seven rebounds and two blocks, and 10th-ranked Cincinnati clinched a share of the American Athletic Conference title with a 78-49 victory over Tulane on Thursday night.
Cane Broome scored 13 for the Bearcats (26-4, 15-2), whose stifling defensive play helped them build leads as large as 19 in the first half and 33 in the second.
The Bearcats can clinch the title outright with a victory at No. 11 Wichita State on Sunday.
Bearcats leading scorer and Baton Rouge-native Jacob Evans hit three 3-pointers and scored 11 points before hurting his ankle with 8 minutes left in the first half. He needed help to get to the locker room initially. He limped back to the bench before the first half ended, but never checked back in.
Cincinnati appeared unfazed by Evans’ absence and continued to consolidate its grip on the game. Broome and Washington each scored four points during a 10-0 run that made it 35-17. Washington’s layup several minutes later pushed the lead to 39-20 by halftime.
Melvin Frazier scored 13 points and Cameron Reynolds nine for Tulane (14-15, 5-12), which trailed for good after Jerron Cumberland’s free throws put Cincinnati ahead 7-5 with 16:14 left in the first half.
The Bearcats blew the game wide open with a 12-0 second-half run during which Washington scored five straight on a jumper and a 3. The spurt gave Cincinnati a 61-28 lead.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats came in with the second best field goal percentage defense in the nation, allowing opponents to hit only 37.1 percent of their shots this season. They did even better against the Green Wave, which shot only 25 percent (7 of 28) in the first half and 31.4 percent (16 of 51) for the game. Cincinnati also exceeded its average of 5.5 blocks per game, swatting away seven, and grabbed 16 offensive rebounds after averaging 13.2 in that department this season. Cincinnati has held 20 of 30 opponents under 40 percent shooting this season.
Tulane: A packed house for a nationally televised game pumped up the noise level way above usual levels in 4,000-seat Fogelman Arena at Devlin Fieldhouse. And while Tulane has improved over recent seasons under second-year coach Mike Dunleavy, the Green Wave wasn’t ready to contend with a team as balanced, experienced, consistent and defensively sound as Cincinnati. The Wave have dropped their past five meetings with the Bearcats and have not defeated a team ranked in the top 10 since No. 9 Memphis in 1983.
Cincinnati finishes its regular season at No. 11 Wichita State on Sunday.
Tulane plays its regular season finale at UCF on Sunday.