Cincinnati, OH-An early 18-4 start benefited No. 15 Cincinnati (25-5, 14-3 American) as the Bearcats never trailed in a 97-84 victory over No. 20 Memphis (22-8, 11-6 American) on Thursday night at Fifth Third Arena.
Sean Kilpatrick led Cincinnati with 34 points, while Titus Rubles (24) and Justin Jackson (13) also reached double figures. The Bearcats scored 20 points off 14 Memphis turnovers, and committed a season-low three turnovers on the night. Cincinnati shot 53 percent from the field while holding the Tigers to 47 percent from the floor.
The Tigers got off to a slow start, committing eight turnovers and going 2-of-7 from the floor in the first seven and a half minutes of play. Cincinnati took advantage of Memphis’ miscues as the Bearcats went 8-of-16 to open up an 18-4 lead and force a Memphis timeout.
A jumper by Geron Johnson at the 12:11 mark began a 6-0 Memphis run. A layup from David Pellom followed by a fastbreak layup by Jackson pulled the Tigers back within eight at 18-10 with 11:30 to play in the half.
Memphis continued to trim away at its deficit as Shaq Goodwin drew an and-one opportunity after being fouled on a dunk to bring the Tigers within six. However, the Bearcats answered as Kilpatrick connected from deep before a jumper by Jackson extended the Cincinnati advantage to 24-13 with 6:47 left in the period.
The Tigers responded with five-straight points from Nichols to pull within 24-18 with five minutes to play. After the Bearcats stretched their lead back to double figures, Chris Crawford knocked down the Tigers’ first triple of the game with 1:10 left in the first half before Nichols hit two free throws to make it a six-point game. After a three by Kilpatrick, Dixon Jr. answered with one of his own right before the buzzer for a halftime score of 38-32 in favor of Cincinnati.
The Tigers opened the second half on a 5-0 run with a layup from Jackson and a three-pointer from Crawford to pull within one. Cincinnati scored five of its first seven points in the period from the free-throw line to maintain a narrow advantage.
After a jumper by Jackson to bring Memphis within four, Cincinnati reeled off a 10-1 run over the next 2:39 to take a 58-45 lead with 12:32 to go.
Dixon Jr. brought Memphis to within nine after a three-point play midway through the half. However, the Bearcats kept running away from the Tigers as Kilpatrick scored seven-straight points to help Cincinnati open up a 67-51 lead.
The Bearcats stretched their advantage to as much as 18 points before Memphis cut its deficit to 13 at 76-63 after a three-pointer from Crawford with 4:08 remaining.
Dixon Jr. trimmed the Cincinnati lead to eight after connecting on another triple with 1:52 to play. However, the Bearcats would not allow Memphis to get any closer as they went 12-of-13 from the charity stripe in the final 1:23 to record the 97-84 win.
Memphis closes out the regular season Saturday when it hosts No. 18 SMU with an 11 a.m. (CT) tip-off at FedExForum.