ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP)—Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins wished he traveled a little lighter for this road trip.
With the Conference-USA title still at stake, the 13th-ranked Bearcats turned in a surprisingly sloppy, uninspired performance against DePaul on Thursday night. They were outrebounded, outhustled and, eventually, outscored in the Blue Demons’ 68-65 upset.
Huggins wasn’t happy with anyone on his team, but most of his anger was reserved for senior Tony Bobbitt, who finished 1-for-8 and committed two very costly fouls on 3-point shots.
“I should have left him home,” Huggins said. “If I had it to do over again, I’d have left him home.”
Bobbitt didn’t disagree, saying he has to clean up his act. Cincinnati (20-6, 11-4 C-USA) can still win a share of the title if it beats Memphis on Saturday.
“My attitude (stinks),” Bobbitt said. “He’s right. He’s absolutely right. … I’ve got to make a change, come out and beat Memphis.”
The Bearcats (20-6, 11-4) are going to have to make a few changes if they hope to beat Memphis. Cincinnati has been one of the best-shooting teams in the conference (.468) and has had at least four players in double figures in 12 of its previous 19 games.
But on Thursday night, the Bearcats shot less than 44 percent, lost the rebounding battle 36-27 and had only three players in double figures. Field Williams had 14 points, and Eric Hicks and Armein Kirkland had 10 each.
Drake Diener and Delonte Holland led DePaul (18-8, 11-4) with 17 each, and Quemont Greer had 13 points and 10 rebounds. It was DePaul’s first victory over a team ranked this high since December 2000, when the Blue Demons beat then No. 10 Missouri. Fans were chanting “Nah-nah, hey-hey, goodbye!” as the final seconds ticked off, and students rushed the floor when the final buzzer sounded.
“We got beat by a good team,” Huggins said. “We didn’t play particularly well.”
For the Blue Demons, it couldn’t get much better. DePaul opened the conference season 0-2, but with victories in 11 of its last 13 games, the Blue Demons still have an outside chance at a share of the league title.
The win also could help their NCAA tournament chances.
“This was crazy,” Holland said. “The fans, the student section, it’s something I always will remember. All the support from the fans. It’s something special.”
After an uncharacteristically sloppy first half, the Bearcats appeared to set the tone with their first field goal of the second. Taking off from the left baseline, Maxiell looked as if he was going for the rebound Kareem Johnson’s miss. Instead, he grabbed the ball in mid-flight and slammed it through the hoop for a dunk that had even the DePaul fans gasping.
Kirkland’s turnaround jumper gave Cincinnati a 42-39 lead with 13:18 left, and it looked as if the Blue Demons might be overmatched. But Andre Brown scored on a layup to spark a 10-0 run that was part of a larger 21-9 spurt.
Diener and Holland made back-to-back 3s and, after a timeout, Diener hit an 18-footer to give DePaul a 49-42 lead with 10:42 to play.
“Coach just told us we’d been in this position before and it’s time we really cracked down,” said Chris Exilus, who had nine points. “The aggressor and team that wants it that most is going to win. And we really wanted this game.”
A Jason Maxiell dunk and a 3 by Bobbitt cut DePaul’s lead to 49-47. But anytime the Bearcats were poised to make a run, they found a way to blow it and this time was no different. DePaul’s LeVar Seals took a 3 from well behind the line, and it was clear he wasn’t going to have a shot. But Bobbitt smacked him just as he let the ball go, and Seals got three foul shots.
It was the second time Bobbitt was whistled for a foul on a 3-point shot.
Seals made the first two and after he missed the third, Greer rushed in to grab the rebound. He scored on a layup, putting DePaul back up 53-47 with 8:07 to play.
The Bearcats pulled within 60-56 with 2:23 to play when Brown was called for goaltending. But they were forced to foul down the stretch and couldn’t come up with the big plays to close the gap.
“This is a game where I don’t know that a whole lot of words are necessary,” DePaul coach Dave Leitao said. “Guys spoke volumes by their effort.”