GEORGETOWN, Cayman Islands (AP) — Gary Clark was in the spotlight Monday night, even if it was reluctantly.
Clark scored 24 points and grabbed 14 rebounds and No. 12 Cincinnati held off Buffalo 73-68 to close the opening round of the Cayman Islands Classic.
He had 17 of his points in the second half, making 3 of 4 shots and 10 of 11 free throws and grabbed 10 of his rebounds after the Bulls clawed back from a 13-point halftime deficit. Eight points came in the final 3:23.
“Gary Clark is a reluctant superstar,” Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. “We had to force feed him to do it.”
Kyle Washington added 14 points and Jarron Cumberland 13 for the Bearcats (4-0), who had breezed in their previous games.
C.J. Massinburg scored 27 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulls (2-1). Jeremy Harris added a career-high 17 and Nick Perkins 14 as Buffalo was within four with 24 seconds left.
Two free throws by Clark, courtesy of a technical foul on Buffalo coach Nate Oats, made it 67-57 with 1:52 to play. Perkins hit a 3-pointer with 1:27 to go and Massinburg cashed in on a turnover with another 3 at 56. Clark made two more free throws with 35 seconds to go but Massinburg answered at the line 10 seconds later.
Jacob Evans made a free throw and, after a Buffalo miss, Cumberland slipped free for a dunk, making it a seven-point game with 10 seconds to go. Clark got a late free throw and Massinburg made a layup at the buzzer.
“If I had been a little bit smarter, it should have been a one-possession game in the final minute,” Oats said of his technical, which came after Massinburg was charged with a turnover in the physical game.
Massinburg had 19 points in the second half but the Bulls couldn’t keep Cincinnati off the line. The Bearcats were 17 of 21 in the second half, 27 of 35 for the game. Buffalo finished 11 for 17 and had two players foul out and four other players with four fouls.
“The game got out of control early, but fortunately we had a guy (Clark) who was tough enough and we rode him to victory,” Cronin said. “Buffalo wasn’t going to let us run up and down the court and look pretty, and they would have fouled out their whole team if they had to.”
Buffalo grabbed an early lead but two Nysier Brooks free throws put the Bearcats up 13-12 at the 13:20 mark and shortly after that a 12-0 run, built by five different players, made it 27-14. Cincinnati didn’t score after Cumberland’s layup at the 3:52 mark but the Bulls only got a layup and it was 39-26 at the half. Cumberland had 10 at intermission.
“We got in too big of a hole,” Oats said. “Our guys never quit, I give our guys a lot of credit. We fought and battled with some injuries, we are down numbers, we’ve only got nine scholarship players. … I’m happy with the effort.”
Buffalo: Perkins and Dontay Caruthers, with 7:24 left, fouled out for Cincinnati, Massinburg, Montell McRae, Davonta Jordan and Brock Bertram had four each. … The Bulls were looking to go 3-0 for the first time since 1986-87. They went 2-0 for just the fifth time at the Division I level.
Cincinnati: Clark picked up his 20th double-double. … The Bearcats won their first three by an average of 41.3 with a rebounding difference of 25 a game. … Cincinnati isn’t going to get a chance to boost its strength of schedule as Iowa was bounced by Louisiana-Lafayette 80-71 in the opening game of the tournament.
INSIDE THE NUMERS
Buffalo was outrebounded 43-39 but was plus-3 on the offensive end and Cincinnati had 18 turnovers (13 in the first half) to 17 for Buffalo but the numbers didn’t add up for the Bulls. The Bearcats got 11 points off the turnovers and 18 second-chance points.
“To me, it was points off turnovers and offensive rebounds were the two biggest ways they scored,” Oats said. “I told our guys if we could hold them down to 10 or 15 off those two categories we’d win the game. Well they had 29 … they doubled up the top end of our goal.”
Buffalo takes on UAB on Tuesday.
Cincinnati takes on Richmond.