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Cincinnati at home in Memphis, beats Tigers

The SportsXchange

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The crowd at the FedExForum was ready for their No. 18 Memphis Tigers to play their first home game in the American Athletic Conference on Saturday.

Only five minutes into the game, Memphis went up 8-2 when guard Joe Jackson finished off a fastbreak with a dunk and when the Tigers went back on defense, the crowd began chanting: "Defense, defense, defense."

But in the end that chant was more appropriate for the visiting Cincinnati Bearcats, who extended their winning streak to six games with a 69-53 victory.

"We loved it when the crowd was into it," said Bearcats forward Justin Jackson, who finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and career-tying seven blocked shots. "It gives us more energy."

Unranked Cincinnati (13-2) trailed by as many as seven points in the first half and carried a 27-26 lead into halftime. The Bearcats' energy was more apparent in the second half, when they held the Tigers to 24.3 percent shooting from the floor (9-of-37).

Guard Sean Kilpatrick scored 13 of his game-high 18 points, and Jackson scored 11 of his points and grabbed seven of his rebounds and made five of his blocked shots.

"Coming into this place, it's a tough environment," Kilpatrick said.

Cincinnati moved to 2-0 in American Athletic Conference, play while Memphis (10-3) dropped to 1-1 in league play. Guard Joe Jackson led the Tigers with 13 points, but had five of his team's 16 turnovers.

"We turned the ball over a lot," Memphis senior guard Chris Crawford said. "More turnovers than assists (11)."

Although Memphis grabbed 41 rebounds to 38 for Cincinnati and each team scored 34 points in the paint, the Bearcats were the more physical team.

Memphis coach Josh Pastner sometimes played his four senior guards together -- Jackson, Crawford, Michael Dixon and Geron Johnson -- and that gave Cincinnati an advantage down low.

"I've said if before and I'll say it again, when our four senior guards play poorly collectively, we're going to struggle," Pastner said.

The foursome shot a combined 28.6 percent from the floor (14-for-49).

Memphis got back to within nine at the 3:34 mark in the second half when Dixon (12 points) hit a jumper, but never drew closer. A 3-pointer from Kilpatrick with 2:27 to play put the Bearcats up, 64-51, and essentially settled matters.

The Bearcats made 25-of-57 shots from the floor (43.9 percent), including 6-of-11 from 3-point range (54.5 percent), as six players scored from behind the arc.

Memphis shot 33.3 percent from the field (21-of-63), hitting only 2- of-17 from 3-point distance, or 11.8 percent. The four senior guards accounted for all 17 of those shots.

"In our three losses (the other two were to No. 5 Oklahoma State and No. 16 Florida), we didn't shoot well from three," Pastner said. "We got some great looks (today), but just didn't stick 'em."

For the season, Memphis is 61-of-207 (29.5 percent) from 3-point range.

But the Tigers' Geron Johnson disagreed with the notion they might be better off shooting fewer threes.

"Nah, nah," said Johnson, who went 0-for-5 Saturday and is 6-for-32 on the season (18.5 percent). "It's gonna fall. We're good."

The Tigers' Joe Jackson came into the game averaging 15.2 points per game and Memphis entered the game with the league's second-highest scoring average (82.8). Their previous low for this season was 73 points.

Jackson scored 11 first-half points on 5-for-6 shooting but the Bearcats clamped down on him in the second half as he scored two points on 1-for-7 shooting with four turnovers after halftime.

"Joe Jackson is a tough cover," Kilpatrick said. "We were trying to stop him the most."

Cincinnati's Justin Jackson stopped a lot of people.

"Played very well, affected the game with his shot-blocking," Pastner said.

NOTES: As of Jan. 2, Memphis was 17th in the RPI and Cincinnati was 33rd. ... The Bearcats lead the all-time series with Memphis, 36-31. ... Memphis senior guard Joe Jackson came into Saturday's game with 1,391 career points and 457 career assists. Senior guard Chris Crawford had 1,035 career points and 401 career assists. It's the first time in program history two players on the same team have reached 1,000 points and 400 assists. ... As of Jan. 2, Cincinnati guard Sean Kilpatrick led the American Athletic Conference in scoring with an 18.6 average. ... The Bearcats entered the week ranked fifth in the nation in points allowed at 56.5 per game. ... This is the fourth time in school history Memphis has been a charter member of a conference. The others were the Metro (1975), the Great Midwest (1991) and Conference USA (1995).
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