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University of Cincinnati men’s basketball players watch their teammate, guard Mason Madsen (45), shoot free throws after a technical foul was called during the second half of the game against Temple University on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021 at Fifth Third Arena in Cincinnati.

The University of Cincinnati men’s basketball saw their four-game winning streak broken on Sunday afternoon, falling to American Athletic Conference (AAC) rival University of Houston with a final score of 90-52.

Throughout the first ten minutes, it seemed to be a tight contest as the two sides changed leads five times. However, over the remaining first half and the rest of the game, the Cougars were simply dominant. 

“Got to give credit to Houston,” said head coach John Brannen post game. “[With them] coming off of a loss, that’s what you’d expect the number six team in the country to do; play very focused and energized. We just got overwhelmed.”

To end the first half, Houston went on a 32-7 run to make the game a one-sided affair, concluding the inaugural twenty minutes ahead 50-26. The run extended into the second half, growing to a 55-10 run which gave the Cougars a 42-point lead at one point.

Cincinnati, who is largely a defensively focused team, has not allowed an opponent to score near 90 points since a double overtime loss to the University of Central Florida (89-87) almost exactly a year ago on Feb. 19, 2020. 

The Bearcats were outperformed in every major statistical category, from shooting percentage – overall and three pointers – to points off of turnovers, which the Cougars collected a remarkable 22 points off of 13 UC turnovers. 

“I was disappointed in our reactions when [Houston] went on their runs and our physicality,” said Brannen. “[Marcus] Sasser and [Quentin Grimes] got it going and those guys are two player of the year candidates in our conference. Once they get it going it’s hard to shut that off.

Five Cougars players reached the double digits in scoring, led by Grimes’ 20 points off 6-14 shooting. Grimes also collected eight rebounds and three assists while going 5-5 from the free throw line, helping the Cougars finish the day with an impressive mark of 90% at the line.

Grimes’ performance will keep him among the AAC’s top five scores (16.7 ppg) as the junior continues to make his case for the conference’s Player of the Year award.

The lone bright spot performance for Cincinnati was freshman forward Tari Eason, who was one of only two Bearcats to crack double digits in scoring (Jeremiah Davenport, 11 points). Eason finished with 10 points on 3-6 shooting, five rebounds, three blocks and one steal.

Eason also saw 22 minutes on the court, his highest total over the past three games. The freshman continues to have an impressive debut season, averaging 7.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.2 blocks (fifth best in the AAC) and one steal all in just 18.6 minutes per game. 

Houston continues their dominance in 2021 and improves to 18-3 (12-3 AAC) on the season, while the Bearcats fall to 7-8 (5-5 AAC). 

Cincinnati next heads to Oklahoma to play the University of Tulsa on Feb. 24 at 9 p.m. The game will be aired on ESPNU.