After the Cardinals pulled off their stylish win over Syracuse on Saturday, fans in the ‘Ville had been buzzing about the incredible team effort of late. What U of L hadn’t encountered yet was a team playing for its life.
The teams entered the game with identical 19-6 records, but U of L was ranked 16th and Cincy was in a more desperate position. The final was 63-54 as Cincy dominated much of the game before a sparse house of 11,511 at Fifth Third Arena.
Cincinnati came into the game battling for post-season positioning. It needed a win to bring the dream of dancing in March closer to reality. So the team in red played relentless defense. It shut down the Cardinals’ biggest weapons, limiting U of L to 4 of 17 three-point shooting. UC shut down these Cardinals like no one had done since the Kentucky game in December.
Throughout the first half the Cards were dazed and confused. After a spree of fouls to open the game, the Bearcats were in the bonus halfway through the first period. Their nine made first-half free throws helped push them further ahead. Cincinnati deflected and tipped countless passes and went into the locker room with a 12-point lead.
In the second half the Cardinals made a strong comeback, cutting the lead to five at one point. But every time the Cardinals would come close, the Bearcats hit the throttle and pulled away again. With the outside game not working, Terrence Jennings led the Cards with 14 inside points. Kyle Kuric had 9 and a team-high 8 boards.
The Cardinals now face a tough match-up at home against Connecticut on Friday. They’ll seek win #20 after a Thursday student pep rally at the Swain Student Activity Center.