When these two teams hit the hardwood against each other you expect it to be a very physical game that almost resembles a street fight on a basketball court. The refs knew this and they came out and tried to set a tone early, which resulted in Breaon Brady picking up three fouls before the first media timeout, one of them being of the new hook and hold variety.
Cincinnati took quick advantage of that foul trouble that the Cougars got in to by taking a 13-5 lead just over five minutes into the game, but then Houston adjusted to the style of this particular game and were able to weather the storm and begin to chip into that early Cincinnati lead.
The Bearcats were largely able to get out to the nice lead because of the inside play of Nysier Brooks, but then a big dry spell hit for Cincy and Houston took advantage, making the early Cincinnati lead nearly irrelevant as Corey Davis and Dejon Jarreau were able to shoulder a lot of the offensive load for Houston.
Late in the first half Jarron Cumberland was able to get things going for Cincinnati, scoring 12 first half points, but ultimately the storm was already weathered by this great Houston team and with 0.3 seconds left in the half, Corey Davis was fouled on a pump fake attempt on a jumper and after going 2/2 from the line, Davis was sitting at 14 points and despite being down by as much as eight, Houston took a 37-35 lead into the half.
The second half started off similarly to the first half. Cincinnati came out playing better and Breaon Brady saw even more foul trouble, picking up his fourth foul with 16:35 left in the game, forcing him to spend even more time on the bench after he played just three minutes in the first half.
Houston was unable to get a field goal for about the first five and a half minutes of the second half, but Cincinnati didn’t take advantage, because a Corey Davis three tied the game at 41.
Cincinnati was looking like the better overall team early in the second half, stretching their lead to 47-41, but Corey Davis was able to keep Houston in the game, but the Cougars did go on a 10+ minute stretch where Davis was the only player to make a field goal, but then with Jarron Cumberland on the bench to try and get him some rest for the final stretch run of the game, Cincinnati didn’t know where to turn for offense, and as a result, Houston went on an 11-0 run to take their biggest lead of the game at 52-47 before a pair of free throws by Cumberland broke the run.
With just under 10 minutes remaining in the second half, it was Cincinnati’s turn to deal with foul trouble, as big man Nysier Brooks picked up his fourth foul on a drive to the basket by Davis. This would prove to be very costly because with him off the floor, Houston was able to get to the basket much easier.
To go with a hot stretch on offense, the Houston defense was able to suffocate Cincinnati on offense to take a 60-51 lead into the under-eight media timeout. Corey Davis was now getting some help as some of the other players had stepped up and hit some threes, and in this game every three was critical.
A Nate Hinton three followed by a Corey Davis and-one on a fast break pushed the Cougars lead all the way up to 68-55 with 6:17 left in the game.
After a Cincinnati timeout, Houston came out and Corey Davis hit a three and then Armoni Brooks drilled a three, stretching the Houston lead out to 76-59, prompting Mick Cronin to use his final timeout of the game with 4:22 left as Houston was on a 35-12 run and Corey Davis had already set a new career-high with 29 points.
Cincinnati would briefly cut the lead down to 12, but Houston had too much on this day.
Houston star Corey Davis finished with a career- high 31 points and 6 assists. Armoni Brooks finished with 14 points and 6 rebounds and Nate Hinton finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds as Houston clinched the American title outright.
Top Photo: Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer