(photo by Ryan Luster)
By Ryan Roberts
In a match-up between the top two scoring offenses in the AAC, it was the Cincinnati Bearcats that came out victorious in an 88-77 win over Tulane in front of 9,484 fans.
Tulane scored the first basket of the game but that would be the only lead that they would see as Cincinnati responded with a 20-4 run over the next 7 minutes and raced out to a 39-22 lead with 4:19 left in the half. Landers Nolley II was a key component to the run with 14 first-half points, but it was point guard Mika Adams Woods and his 8 points, 6 assists that really set the tone for the rest of the Bearcats. Cincinnati shot a blistering 58% from the field in the first half with seven different Bearcats recording a basket.
Despite that hot shooting, Tulane was able to hang around by attacking the rim and getting to the free-throw line, led by Jalen Cook. Cook finished with 13 points in the half, including a layup with 8 seconds left to cut Cincinnati's lead to 45-35, Those two points would be the highlight of his night and the last field goal that he would make in the game. What slowed Cook down in the second half?
The senior guard has taken it upon himself to become the team's defensive stopper with senior point guard Rob Phinisee out with a foot injury and he once again stepped up in a big way. Cook made two free throws with 18:37 left in the second half and wouldn't hear his name called again until he fouled out with 5:26 remaining. Dejulius finished the night with 13 points, 5 rebounds in 32 minutes of action.
While Tulane's leading scorer, Cook, was struggling, his teammates Kevin Cross (22 points) and Jaylen Forbes (20 points) were doing all the could to try to complete a comeback. A three pointer by Forbes with 8:08 left cut Cincinnati's lead to just 3 at 62-59. Viktor Lahkin (13 points, 13 rebounds) extended the Bearcats lead back to 5 with two free throws but Cross answered with a 3 pointer to cut the Bearcats lead to 2 with 7:33 left. That would be the closest Tulane would get the rest of the game.
Jeremiah Davenport scored 3 of his 10 points after being fouled on a three point attempt and Mike Adams Woods scored 5 points during a 10-3 run to extend the Bearcats lead out to 74-65 with 4:43 left. Tulane answered with a basket but a Landers Nolley step back three and Vik Lahkin basket in the paint pushed the Bearcats lead out to double digits with 3;24 left and Tulane wouldn't get closer than 8 the rest of the way.
For the game, Landers Nolley II led the Bearcats with 23 points followed by Mika Adams-Woods with 18 points on an efficient 7-8 shooting. A cold second half from beyond the arc put UC at 8-25 for the game but they still finished at 51% from the field. Dan Skillings Jr was a spark off the bench with 7 points, 6 rebounds in 12 minutes.
With the win, Cincinnati improves to 10-4 (1-0 AAC) , while Tulane drops to 7-5 (0-1 AAC). Up next, the Bearcats travel to Philadelphia for a 3 pm tip off against Temple (7-7 1-0 AAC) on New Years Day.