CINCINNATI (AP)—James White never had a game like this one.
The flashy forward made every type of shot, scored a career-high 25 points and had 10 rebounds Saturday night while leading No. 21 Cincinnati to an 87-68 victory over Houston that showed what he can do in the right setting.
“It was their style of play,” said White, who has scored 20 points only one other time in his three-year career. “With the way I play and them pressuring and double-teaming other guys, I was finding open shots.”
He wasn’t the only one who dominated. Jason Maxiell had 10 rebounds, 14 points and eight blocks, helping the Bearcats (17-3, 6-1 Conference USA) roll to their 10th straight victory over Houston. The Cougars (12-9, 3-4) are 1-22 against Cincinnati, which leaves next season for the Big East.
The game provided the first head-to-head matchup of two of Division I’s most successful coaches. Cincinnati’s Bob Huggins has 559 career wins, while Tom Penders—in his first season rebuilding Houston’s program—has 539.
Huggins had a whole lot more to work with in this one.
White tied his career high for 3-pointers by going 3-of-3 from beyond the arc, and repeatedly drove past defenders for pull-up jumpers or layups. White was 9-of-12 overall from the field.
His reverse dunk off an alley-oop pass from Jihad Muhammad made it 56-32 and brought the crowd of 12,365 to its feet.
“I saw him play in high school,” Penders said. “He’s coming on. He’s finally playing the way I thought he would. I think Bob’s got him harnessed finally. He knows when to dunk, when to pull up.”
Maxiell came up two blocks short of the 15th triple-double in Cincinnati’s history. Oscar Robertson, who averaged a triple-double in his second NBA season, had 10 of them at Cincinnati. Rick Roberson had one, Kenyon Martin had two, and Kenny Satterfield had the last one on Jan. 29, 2001, against Tulane.
Maxiell went to the bench for the last couple minutes with the game in hand, then learned he was two blocks shy of UC history.
“I tried to get back in, but they wouldn’t let me,” Maxiell said.
Andre Owens led Houston with 26 points, and Lanny Smith added 20.
It was another dominating effort by Cincinnati’s man-to-man defense, which holds opponents to 35.8 percent from the field, second-best in the nation. Houston shot only 32.9 percent.
The Bearcats also had pronounced advantages in rebounds (51-36) and free throws, going 25-of-36 from the line while the Cougars were 11-of-17.
Houston opened the game by hitting a pair of wide-open shots, getting the Bearcats’ attention. One of the nation’s stingiest defenses dug in, holding Houston to 1-for-13 shooting over the next seven minutes. Four of the Cougars’ shots were swatted away emphatically.
Nick Williams made a pair of 3-pointers and a three-point play during that span, leading a 19-5 run that put the Bearcats in control the rest of the way. They led by 17 points at halftime, dominating every facet of the game.
Houston, the conference’s worst rebounding team, tried to keep up by fouling. Forward Ramon Dyer, the Cougars’ leading rebounder, had three fouls in the opening 3:25, sending him to the bench.
Cincinnati was in the bonus at the 15:44 mark of the first half, and Penders sandwiched his face between his hands and shook his head forlornly after Dwight Jones II picked up the team’s 10th foul on a charge less than 10 minutes into the game.
At that moment, Penders knew it was going to be a long night for his team, which is 3-4 since upsetting Louisville on Jan. 5. Afterward, he didn’t have much to say about it.
“I don’t have any grandiose statements,” Penders said. “I made them all to the refs.”