Displaying its dominance once again as the number one team in the NCAA, the American Athletic Conference (AAC) No. 1 seeded University of Houston defeated the University of Cincinnati (UC) men’s basketball team, 69-48. UC falls yet again to Houston in the semifinals of the AAC Championships, marking the third year in a row the Cougars have knocked the Bearcats out of the conference tournament.
Houston’s starpower, despite losing one of its top players in Marcus Sasser midway through the game to a groin injury, helped lift the Cougars to victory and hold UC to under 50 points. The trio of freshman Jarace Walker, junior J’Wan Roberts and junior Jamal Shead – all recipients of AAC Second Team honors – combined for 45 points and were Houston’s lone double-digit scorers. The trio also contributed to three steals, two blocks, and 20 rebounds.
UC, on the other hand, only had one double-digit scorer who was once again was senior Landers Nolley II (14 points), advancing his double-digit scoring streak of 23 games ahead of a possible NIT tournament appearance for UC. Despite leading the game in scoring for the Bearcats, Nolley shot 3-13 from the field, 3-9 from three-point range.
As a whole, UC struggled to see the ball go through the hoop and shot just 25.5 percent from the field for the game. UC’s hot shooting from behind the arc did not carry over from the Temple University victory in the game prior; the Bearcats saw only six of their 28 heaves fall in.
“Give Houston credit for making it difficult [to score],” UC head coach Wes Miller said. “They’re the number one ranked team in the country for a reason, and they’re a difficult team to score on.”
Leaving the arc and heading towards the basket, Houston continued its dominance over UC. Houston outscored UC in the paint, 38 to 12, and outrebounded UC 44 to 32. Despite this, senior Ody Oguama once again led the game in rebounds with nine.
Oguama’s improvement throughout the season is not lost on Miller – Oguama started off the season on the bench and has since started 18 games.
“Ody’s improvement is remarkable,” Miller said. “He’s turned into one of the premier defensive guys in our program and in this league, it’s amazing.”
Graduate David DeJulius, among a few other Bearcats, played their last conference game against Houston as their eligibility ends this season. DeJulius transferred from Michigan three seasons ago, and has since been a pillar to how UC progresses as a program.
Beyond stats, DeJulius’ presence has always been felt in the locker room and off the court as a leader of the Bearcats.
“His leadership and his resilience, his toughness, this season could be a disappointment in so many ways and it hasn’t been and it’s been something I’m proud of, and it says a lot about those guys and says a lot about [DeJulius],” Miller said. “He’s been a leader to this group and this group has responded to him all year and that’s why we’ve kept fighting.”
Miller admitted in the post-game press conference that people told him “not to keep” DeJulius when first arriving in Cincinnati.
“David DeJulius is the reason this program is still standing,” Miller said.
DeJulius, Miller, and company finish the season with a 21-12 record overall, and look ahead to Sunday night when the bracket for the NIT Tournament is announced.