The University of Cincinnati women's basketball team cruised to a resounding victory Wednesday evening, 85-66, over conference rivals, the University of Houston.
The Bearcats' victory was their 12th of the season, and 26th at home since head coach Michelle Clark-Heard began her tenure at the beginning of last season.
UC has been in imperious form at home thus far, extending its winning-streak at Fifth Third Arena to eight games. Led behind junior forward Iimar'I Thomas' double-double, which included a career-high 35 points on 14 of 22 shooting and 10 rebounds, and senior guard Antoinette Miller's 18 points, seven rebounds and eight assists, the Bearcats gained control and led for nearly 31 minutes.
Despite the commanding finish, the game had a much dimmer outlook for the first six minutes, as Houston held a seven-point lead. The start by Cincinnati, which was characterised by turnovers and allowing fast-break points, was poor, to say the least. But the slow start was quickly amended after a timely Bearcat timeout that sparked a resurgence.
There was a change in defense and a demand for more intensity, according to Clark-Heard, by which the team duly obliged. UC went on an 11-0 run to end the first quarter, opening the lead to five. It was extended to 14 just four minutes into the second period.
By half, the boastful Bearcats led by 16, a lead that was credited to hard work in the paint both offensively and defensively. The offense seemed to run through Thomas, who put up 21 points on 9 of 11 shooting in the first half. The Houston defense couldn't handle her aggression and determination to get to the rim for easy lay-ups.
But what was impressive was UC's determination to get offensive rebounds and create second-chance opportunities. The Houston defense had collapsed inwards, leaving senior Sam Rodgers open to shoot from deep. Rodgers finished with 12 points, going 3 of 5 from the 3-point line.
The victory was resounding, apart from a lull at the beginning of the second-half, where another intervention by Clark-Heard was needed. The game ran out to dry end, where the largest roar of the evening came from a Thomas' lay-up that dropped to give her the career-high.
Clark-Heard said she was "really proud of the group" for its dominate performance that moves Cincinnati up to fourth in the American Athletic Conference (AAC) and one game behind Sunday's opponent, Temple University.
The team has its eyes on bettering last season that ended with a postseason run to the WNIT quarterfinals. Thomas said the team is "not satisfied" and wants to make a better run in the AAC Tournament and make a push at the NCAA Tournament.
The Bearcats face a crucial point in their season if their desire is to be accomplished, and after Sunday, their short home-stand will be over. The Bearcats meet three of the top five schools in the AAC, which could ultimately define their season.