HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. (AP) — Gary Clark was honored pregame as one of Cincinnati’s seniors, but had to watch from the bench in foul trouble as the 11th-ranked Bearcats fell behind.
He made the difference when he finally got on the court.
Clark led a 24-4 run that put Cincinnati ahead to stay early in the second half, and the Bearcats held on for an 82-74 victory over Tulsa on Sunday that preserved their one-game lead in the American Athletic Conference heading into the final week.
Clark picked up two fouls and played only eight minutes in the opening half, when he had two points. His dunk started the go-ahead surge, and he had eight during the spurt overall.
“It’s frustrating, but the guys we have were holding it down while I was sitting down,” Clark said.
<a target=”—blank” href=”https://collegebasketball.ap.org/teams/cincinnati”>Cincinnati (25-4, 14-2)</a> stayed ahead of No. 13 Wichita State (23-5, 13-3) in the race for the regular-season title. The Shockers won on Cincinnati’s home court <a target=”—blank” href=”https://collegebasketball.ap.org/article/no-19-wichita-state-upends-no-5-cincinnati-76-72″>76-72 a week ago</a> .
<a target=”—blank” href=”https://collegebasketball.ap.org/teams/wichita-state”>Wichita State</a> plays at UCF on Thursday and hosts Cincinnati next Sunday in a potential showdown game. The Bearcats play at Tulane on Thursday before heading to Wichita State.
The Bearcats struggled defensively, giving up a season-high 14 3-pointers, but made a season-high 15 from beyond the arc. Clark and Jarron Cumberland had 17 points apiece.
“Their small lineup is just a tough matchup for us,” coach Mick Cronin said. “We were searching for different ways to play defense. None of them was working, obviously.”
<a target=”—blank” href=”https://collegebasketball.ap.org/teams/tulsa”>Tulsa (17-11, 10-7)</a> led by eight points early in the second before Clark started the decisive run. Junior Etou scored 21 for Tulsa, which had its six-game winning streak snapped.
“Cannot fault our effort or how we carried ourselves,” coach Frank Haith said. “This team has been playing well the last half of the year and it was no different this afternoon. I thought we played extremely well.”
Cincinnati completed its season playing at Northern Kentucky University while its on-campus arena is renovated, going 14-1 at BB&T Arena.
Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane is wrapping up a regular season that marks a step up for the program. Tulsa went 15-17 last season and 8-10 in the AAC, finishing seventh. It’s fourth in the league with two games to go.
Cincinnati: Even though the Bearcats rank second nationally in defense, they’d given up a lot of open shots in the previous two games, a concern to Cronin. The Golden Hurricane got plenty of those, too, while shooting 59 percent in the first half. The Golden Hurricane led 47-44 at the break, the most points Cincinnati has allowed in a half this season.
Clark, Kyle Washington and walk-on Jackson Bart were honored on court before the final home game. Washington had eight points and four rebounds.
Tulsa’s six-game winning streak was the longest active one in the AAC and the Golden Hurricane’s longest since it won 12 in a row during 2014-15 season, Haith’s first as head coach.
Cronin got a technical foul for going onto the court and arguing a call with 55 seconds left in the first half. It’s the second straight game he’s gotten a technical. He said an official later apologized for the call, but that was no consolation.
“I don’t get to apologize when we lose,” Cronin said. “That doesn’t help me.”
LONG & WINDING ROAD
The Bearcats played only one game in Cincinnati this season, their 89-76 loss at crosstown rival Xavier in December. That’s also the only game they played in the state of Ohio.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
Asked about the defensive lapses the past few games, Cronin bristled. He noted that his team has lost four games while Kentucky, Indiana and Louisville have lost 32 games combined.
“If you look around, people ought to be real happy at Cincinnati with the way the basketball program at Cincinnati is being run,” Cronin said. “Next question.”
Tulsa was missing guard Sterling Taplin, sidelined for the first time this season because of a sprained ankle.
“He tried his darnedest to get ready to play,” Haith said. “He’s just not ready yet.”
Tulsa: Golden Hurricane plays at East Carolina on Thursday. Tulsa opened AAC play by beating ECU 79-53 on Dec. 28.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats have won four straight and 14 of 15 against Tulane, including a 78-61 victory last season.
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