By Ryan Roberts
Coming in to Saturday night's "Nati Jam" match up against the South Florida Bulls, the Bearcats were reeling after a tough 101-94 overtime loss on the road at Tulane. They not only lost the game, but also lost their third leading scorer, Viktor Lahkin, just 7 minutes in to the game to an apparent ankle injury. Senior point guard Rob Phinisee was also lost to a season ending injury.
Cincinnati lost focus in the final two minutes of regulation in that game and missed five consecutive three point attempts to allow Tulane to erase a 7 point lead and send the game to overtime. Those shooting woes carried over in to the first half of the game against South Florida. Wes Miller's squad trailed 11-10 with 10:57 remaining in the first half and were shooting 4 for 19 from the field, 0 for 6 from 3.
Over the next 5 minutes, both teams traded baskets, fouls, and turnovers to make it 25-25 with 5:03 remaining in the first half. To say the two teams were struggling offensively would be an understatement. Cincinnati would take a 5 point lead, 30-25, with 3:44 remaining on back to back baskets by Mika Adams-Woods and David Dejulius but South Florida closed the half on a 13-4 run to give the Bulls a 38-34 halftime lead. The Bulls run was capped by a Tyler Harris 3 at the buzzer and was the 7th consecutive South Florida make.
At the half Cincinnati was shooting 29% from the field (10-34) and 23% from 3 (3-13) with David Dejulius leading the way at 8 points. South Florida managed to close the half at 45% (15 for 33) and the Cats had no answer for Corey Walker JR, who led all scorers with 16 first half points.
With Cincinnati relying so heavily on making shots from outside, scoring droughts are something that Bearcat fans have become accustomed to. When the Cats are hitting shots, the offense is extremely fun to watch. When they are missing those same shots, it becomes hard to watch at times. The Bearcats lost to South Florida on senior day at home to close out the regular season last year. If they were going to avoid consecutive home losses to USF, they were going to have to start knocking down some shots.
Senior forward Ody Oguama scored the Cats' first 6 points of the second half to tie the game at 40 and Jeremiah Davenport followed the Oguama run with a 3 to give Cincinnati a 43-40 lead at the under 16 media stop. Through the first 4:04 of the second half, the Bearcats made 4 of 5 shots and managed to hold South Florida without a FG for 2:41.
Davenport was just getting started. After being held to 5 points in the first half, the senior guard started the second half with 10 points in the first 7 minutes to extend the Bearcats lead to 52-43 with 13:17 remaining in the game. The Cats had finally found some offensive rhythm and it started by being more aggressive inside and not settling for jump shots. A 9 for 12 start to the second half had the Cats rolling.
Freshman Dan Skillings Jr knocked down a corner 3 and David Dejulius used a nice take to the basket to extend the lead to 61-49. Skillings would knock down another 3 moments later, followed by a Mika Adams-Woods 3 to push the lead to 15, 69-54, with 6:48 remaining. While Cincinnati was in the midst of a 5 for 7 from 3 start to the second half, South Florida had managed just 6 field goals on 17 attempts.
Jeremiah Davenport and Ody Oguama combined for 27 second half points and the Bearcats turned a 4 point halftime deficit in to a convincing 84-65 victory. Davenport and Oguama both finished with 18 points to lead the Bearcats. The 18 points for Oguama were a career high and came on a perfect 9 for 9 showing from the floor. Landers Nolley finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds to give him five double doubles since conference play started. David Dejulius also finished in double figures with 10 points, 9 assists.
South Florida was led by Corey Walker Jr with 25 points.
- Cincinnati finished 31-66 from the field and 10-23 from 3.
- Bearcats had 24 assists on 31 made baskets, led by David Dejulius with 9
- Cincinnati scored 18 points off 12 USF turnovers
- USF leading scorer Tyler Harris was held to 7 points on 3 of 15 shooting
- Kalu Ezikpe started in place of Lahkin and responded with 5 points, 8 rebounds in 12 minutes
- UC shot 66% from the field in the 2nd half (21-32)
The Bearcats improve to 17-9 (8-5 AAC) , while South Florida falls to 10-15 (3-9 AAC).
Up Next: Cincinnati will travel to East Carolina Wednesday 2/15.