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UC guard Chris McNeal (0) goes up for a layup during the second half of the men's basketball game against Iowa at the United Center in Chicago Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019.

The University of Cincinnati men's basketball team couldn't complete a second-half comeback and dropped a non-conference matchup to the University of Iowa, 77-70, Saturday evening in the Chicago Legends tournament at the United Center.

After trailing by eight at halftime, the Bearcats' defense kept them in striking distance in the second-half. UC graduate transfer guard Chris McNeal had five steals in the final twenty minutes, including two for fast-break layup's.

Iowa's backcourt didn't feature senior point guard Jordan Bohannon, who had season-ending hip surgery Thursday. He averaged 8.8 points and 3.3 assists in 10 games this season.

"We just tried to pressure the ball handlers," McNeal said. "We knew they were without their starting point guard that they had for quite some time, so we just wanted to pressure and make them uncomfortable."

McNeal, who transitioned to a bench role after he was taken out of the starting lineup prior to Wednesday's game against Tennessee, finished with nine points and four assists in 21 minutes.

"I feel like [energy] was asked from me from the time I got here," McNeal said. "I just have to keep listening to coach and doing what he asks me to do."

UC struggled from the floor in both halves, shooting 34.7% for the game.

Despite committing 14 second-half turnovers, Iowa shot 10-of-21 after halftime to keep momentum.

Iowa center Luka Garza made his presence felt on defense, finishing with five blocked shots and 10 defensive rebounds. He played a major role in the Hawkeyes out-rebounding the Bearcats 48-31.

"I think we got some key rebounds," Garza said. "As a team, we got stops when we needed to when we weren't scoring on the offensive end and the offense wasn't flowing as well as we wanted it to."

UC first-year head coach John Brannen said Iowa's 2-3 zone caused problems for his offensive.

"The first half, I thought we handled it pretty good and we just missed a ton of shots at the rim," he said. "The second half, we became a little timid and didn't handle it as well."

Hawkeye guard C.J. Fredrick scored a game-high 21 points, including 11 in the second-half that featured back-to-back three-pointers.

The Bearcats' have a holiday break before beginning American Athletic Conference play against the University of Connecticut Huskies Jan. 1 at Fifth Third Arena.

Managing Editor

Huffmon is a fourth-year communications student from Tiffin, Ohio. He often covers UC athletics. He interned at the Kentucky Speedway in the summer of 2019 and has written for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Cincinnati Enquirer.