Second-half surge boosts Cincinnati to 68-41 exhibition win

Donovan Donaldson had eight points and three assists off the bench against Cincinnati (photo by Nick Smith)
Donovan Donaldson had eight points and three assists off the bench against Cincinnati (photo by Nick Smith)

CINCINNATI, Ohio --- The University of Cincinnati broke open a close game in the final 12 minutes and defeated Tusculum University 68-41 in exhibition men's basketball action Thursday night at Fifth Third Arena.

The Bearcats outscored the Pioneers 26-5 after Tusculum had pulled within 42-36 early in the second half, and ended the game with a 44-33 edge in rebounding while going 22-for-34 at the foul line compared to 10-for-14 for the Pioneers.

Tusculum, playing its third Division I opponent on its exhibition schedule and the second in as many nights, shot just 28.9 percent (13-for-45) from the field and 5-for-21 from three-point range. Trenton Gibson led Tusculum in scoring with 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting while adding six rebounds and three assists.

Cincinnati was paced by 15 points from Cane Broome and 11 from Jarron Cumberland, but the Bearcats also struggled from the field as they shot 35.6 percent (21-for-59) and connected on just four three-pointers in 23 attempts. Cincinnati did force Tusculum into 23 turnovers which it converted in 28 points, and outscored the Pioneers 28-16 in the paint and 18-6 on fast breaks.

Tusculum grabbed an early 4-1 lead on two free throws by Gibson and a Cam King layup, while Cincinnati missed its first seven shot attempts. A Donovan Donaldson three-pointer gave the Pioneers a 7-3 lead before Justin Jenifer hit a jumper for the first basket of the game by the Bearcats with 14:23 left in the half. The bucket sparked a 9-0 run by the Bearcats, which was capped by an Eliel Nsoseme putback for a 12-7 Cincinnati lead with 11:43 to go in the half.

Cincinnati went ahead 20-11 on a three-pointer from Rashawn Fredericks with 7:47 to go in the half, but the Bearcats would go four minutes before their next basket as Cincinnati went 0-for-5 from the field and 1-for-4 at the foul line over that stretch. Tusculum was unable to take advantage, going 1-for-7 from the floor until a four-point play from Dillon Smith cut the deficit to 25-17 with 2:21 left in the half.

The Pioneers cut the margin to five points at 25-20 on a free throw by Caleb Hodnett with 43 seconds left in the half, but a three-point play from Jenifer in the final seconds sent the Bearcats to the locker room with a 28-20 lead. The teams combined to shoot 28.6 percent from the field, 19.2 percent from three-point range and 57.9 percent from the foul line in the first half

Tusculum was able to trim the deficit to 30-24 on back-to-back layups by Adrian Cohen and Gibson, and a three-pointer by Donaldson pulled the Pioneers within 30-27 with 16:52 left. A 5-0 spurt by the Bearcats, featuring a pair of buckets by Broome, pushed Cincinnati back ahead 35-27 with 15:24 remaining. Gibson would drill a three-pointer to bring Tusculum back within five, but another 5-0 run by Cincinnati extended its lead to double figures at 40-30 with 13:45 to go.

Brandon Mitchell hit a free throw with 12:01 remaining to cut the Cincinnati lead to 42-36, but the Bearcats surged after the under-12 media timeout by rattling off 17 unanwered points over the next nine minutes. Tusculum went 0-for-7 from the field and had nine turnovers during the drought, which ended on a foul shot by Dillon Nash with exactly three minutes left. The Pioneers' lone field goal in the final 12 1/2 minutes came on a driving layup by Chad Emmons with 46 seconds remaining.

Smith finished with seven points and hit a pair of three-pointers in 23 minutes for the Pioneers, while Donaldson ended the game with eight points, three rebounds and three assists in 24 minutes off the bench. Mitchell played just 13 minutes, but contributed five rebounds and three blocked shots while scoring three points for Tusculum.

All 12 players who played for Cincinnati reached the scoring column, even as the Bearcats shot just 40 percent (12-for-30) from the field in the second half. Cincinnati was 15-for-20 from the foul line after halftime, led by Broome who was 7-for-8 from the stripe in the game. Tre Scott had four points and a game-high 10 rebounds for Cincinnati, with four of his rebounds on the offensive glass. The Bearcats finished with 14 offensive rebounds as a team, converting them into 12 second-chance points.

With its exhibition road swing in the books, the Pioneers will come home and prepare for their regular-season opener against USC Aiken next Friday, Nov. 9 at 5:30 p.m. as part of the SAC/Peach Belt Challenge at Aiken, South Carolina.