CINCINNATI (AP) — Justin Jenifer put Cincinnati ahead to stay with a layup and hit a 3-pointer with 19.9 seconds left Thursday night, rallying Cincinnati to a 60-55 victory over UCF in a matchup of two of the American Athletic’s top defensive teams.
The Bearcats (22-4, 11-2) overcame an eight-point deficit behind its senior point guard, who finished with 12 points. He closed it out with a pair of free throws with 12.9 seconds to go.
Jarron Cumberland, who leads the AAC in scoring and had 27 points in each of the last two games, was limited to 11 points. He missed all of his six shots from the field in the second half, when he was limited to a pair of free throws.
Aubrey Dawkins scored 18 for UCF (19-6, 9-4), which had won its last three games.
Cincinnati led 26-18 at halftime, taking advantage of UCF’s worst opening half of the season. The Knights had 15 turnovers — one shy of their season high for an entire game — that set up half of the Bearcats’ points.
UCF opened the second half with an 18-2 run for a 46-38 lead as Cincinnati missed seven of eight shots and had four turnovers. The Bearcats tied it 46-46 on Keith Williams’ put-back and free throw, and Jenifer’s layup just beat the shot clock for a 50-48 lead with 3:12 to go.
UCF: The Knights were picked to win the league in the coaches’ preseason poll. They could have moved into a second-place tie with the Bearcats, trailing Houston. Instead, they’re trying to catch two teams down the stretch for the league title.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats remain on the verge of returning to the Top 25. They were the first team out this week.
UCF hosts SMU on Sunday. The Knights won at SMU 71-65 on Feb. 10.
Cincinnati plays at UConn on Sunday. The Bearcats beat the Huskies 74-72 in overtime on Jan. 12.
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