TAMPA, Fla. (AP)—Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins shrugged off another lopsided victory over South Florida.
“It’s the time of the year, man, you just want to win and go home. We’ve got another game on Saturday,” Huggins said Thursday night after the 21st-ranked Bearcats beat the Bulls 74-48 to retain a share of first place in Conference USA.
Eric Hicks had 19 points and 11 rebounds, and Cincinnati rebounded from last Saturday’s four-point loss to No. 5 Wake Forest by playing stifling defense, holding South Florida to 26 percent shooting and a season-low point total.
“That’s really what we’ve done all year,” Huggins said. “This is not one of our best offensive teams, but considering our lack of size inside we’ve really done a good job defensively.”
Cincinnati (16-3, 5-1) improved to 14-0 against South Florida under Huggins, a streak that began in December 1991. South Florida (8-9, 1-5) has lost five straight after an 8-4 start, and the results are getting progressively worse.
Since losing to UAB, Marquette and Memphis by a total of nine points, the Bulls have been held to their two worst offensive performances of the season, scoring 50 in a 12-point loss to Houston and struggling even more against Cincinnati.
“You have to come out and prove yourself every night, and especially against a Top 20 team,” South Florida’s Brian Swift said. “You have to come out and show that you belong there. … It was a rude awakening tonight for us.”
Hicks had 15 points and four blocks in the first half, and Cincinnati broke the game open with a 24-5 run that gave the Bearcats a 37-15 halftime lead. The closest South Florida got after that was 14 points with 8:25 remaining.
South Florida missed 25 of 30 shots in the opening half, with Swift—the Bulls’ best outside shooter—going 3-for-12 and leading scorer Terrence Leather being held scoreless while accumulating four fouls in 12 minutes.
“Obviously from the start, not much went right,” South Florida coach Robert McCullum said.
“There was one area that I think sort of sums up the entire game. They were far more physical. I thought that set the tone for the way the game was played. We just didn’t respond to how physical they were.”
Leather, who had been averaging nearly 19 points and nine rebounds per game, fouled out midway through the second half, picking up his fifth foul just seconds after spending the previous 9 minutes on the bench.
The South Florida star missed all five shots he took and finished with three rebounds. The night would have been even longer for the Bulls if Swift hadn’t warmed up in the second half to score 20 of his 27 points.
Cincinnati began the night ranked second nationally in field goal defense, and the Bearcats made South Florida work for everything it got. The Bulls shot less 17 percent in the opening half and finished 15-for-58 (25.9 percent).
Armein Kirkland scored 12 points and Jihad Muhammad added 10 for Cincinnati.
Swift was the only South Florida player in double figures, finishing 9-of-26 from the field. Solomon Jones was the Bulls’ next-highest scorer with six points.