The University of Cincinnati women’s basketball team climbed to third place in the American Athletic Conference (AAC) Sunday with an 86-81 victory over Temple University at Fifth Third Arena.
The Bearcats’ victory marked their ninth-straight at home, and further cemented their home court advantage. Following UC’s 19-point victory over the University of Houston last Wednesday, the Bearcats completed their two-game home stand strong.
UC’s victory was characterised by a great team performance that saw four of the five starters reach double figure points. Senior guard Antoinette Miller led the team with 21 points and became the 28th player in school history to amass 1,000 career points.
Close behind was Angel Rizor, who put up 19 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Forward I’Imari Thomas followed up her career-high night against the Cougars, with another 19 points on 9 of 11 shooting.
The game marked another slow-start for the Bearcats, something Rizor said “was very concerning” for the team. It’s a worrying facet of the team’s characteristics this season and something that needs to be addressed before travelling to league leaders, the University of Connecticut Thursday, according to head coach Michelle Clark-Heard.
It was a very cagey affair between two of the league’s powerhouse programs, both teams reluctant to give up points and the flurry of fouls was significance for both teams.
Temple, in response to Thomas’ outstanding night against Houston, focused its defense on restricting the passing lanes into the paint. Although it meant Thomas was starved of the ball, it meant UC was allowed more space around the perimeter and took deep jumpers that proved to be an advantage.
Although the Bearcats struggled at first with this change, shooting at 22.2% from the field in the first five minutes, they recovered from a seven-point deficit and ended the first period on a 11-4 run to enter the second quarter tied at 16.
The Bearcats held a nine-point lead at halftime. Despite Thomas only attempting two field goals, it was the turn of the Bearcat’s guards that would prove to be the difference. Shooting 50% from the 3-point-line in the second quarter, it was UC’s perimeter shooting that was the difference.
The start of the second-half would prove to be a telling point for the Bearcats. UC was ignited by a 6-2 run on the back of senior guard Florence Sifa, who was the catalyst of the Bearcats’ offense in the third quarter after two fouls early in the first quarter.
The Owls changed their defense and started a full-court press, which initially seemed like the spark they needed. The Bearcats started to turn the ball over and the Owls got hot from behind the arc.
Coupled with big defensive stops that drew the steam out of the Temple offense, UC made buckets that kept Temple out of reach of the lead.
It was a very pleasing performance, according to Clark-Heard. “[She was] proud of how [the team] handled their run … this was a big game, and they’re a great team,” she said.