No. 22 Cincinnati 62, Memphis 60
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—When Cincinnati forward James White swished a baseline jumper in the closing seconds, he thought it was just an insurance basket. A glance at the scoreboard changed that.
White’s 8-footer with 16.2 seconds put the Bearcats ahead, giving Cincinnati a 62-60 victory over Memphis on Saturday.
“I was thinking in my mind, ‘that was a bad shot, that was kind of stupid,”’ White said, adding he thought he shot too early. “Then I got to the bench and looked at the score and realized we were up only two points.”
White scored after Armein Kirkland missed a 3-pointer, giving the Bearcats (24-6, 12-4 Conference USA) their sixth straight victory.
“I backed it out and saw (the Memphis defender) was off of me,” White said of the game-winner. “I was wide open, so I just shot it.”
Memphis called timeout with 5.2 seconds left, but Rodney Carney lost the ball on the inbounds play, sending the Tigers (16-14, 9-7) to their fourth straight loss.
Cincinnati survived despite shooting 33 percent from the field and 18-of-34 from the line.
Kirkland led the Bearcats with 16 points. Eric Hicks added 12 points and 11 rebounds, and White had 11 points and 11 rebounds. Cincinnati held a 53-37 advantage on the boards, including 24 offensive rebounds.
“They had 24 offensive rebounds, and the last one won the game for them,” Memphis coach John Calipari said.
“We got a lot of rebounds,” said Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins. “When you can’t shoot, you have to rebound. We didn’t shoot the ball well, so we spent a lot of time rebounding.”
Darius Washington had 19 points to lead Memphis, while Jeremy Hunt scored 13 and grabbed eight rebounds. The Tigers also struggled from the field, shooting 34 percent.
“They’re just not falling,” said Washington who was 6-of-14 from the field. “We need to do something else, like drive to the basket and try to create a foul or something.”
Through much of the game, Calipari tried to find the right combination to fix his team’s uneven play. At times, he looked to his coaching staff pleadingly asking who he should put in.
The Tigers led 35-30 at the half, after emerging from a shooting slump that has plagued them during the losing streak.
Memphis has shot 34 percent over the last four games and got off to another slow start Saturday, which led the Bearcats to try a zone defense—the same kind Louisville used to stymie the Tigers last week.
But this time, Memphis got untracked, hitting 3-pointers during a 13-4 run that ended with the Tigers leading 29-21.
The Memphis lead was erased early in the second half when the Tigers missed their first nine shots, contributing to 11 unanswered points for the Bearcats.
“We just did a better job of guarding them,” Huggins said. “They went almost 10 minutes without scoring. That tells you we did a pretty good job against a team that runs plays well and sets a lot of staggered screens.”
Cincinnati maintained the lead, despite poor shooting, by dominating the boards. The Bearcats routinely grabbed offensive rebounds to keep possession. But the bulk of their points came from the free throw line—Cincinnati had only one field goal during a stretch of more than seven minutes in the second half.
Memphis was able to tie the score on several occasions after breaking the scoring drought and took the lead on Joey Dorsey’s inside basket with just under 2 minutes left.
Two free throws by Jason Maxiell gave Cincinnati the lead back, but a 3-pointer by Washington tied the game at 60 with 49.7 seconds left, setting the stage for White’s winning basket.