ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Gary Clark scored 17 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to help No. 12 Cincinnati to a 49-38 victory over UCF.
Jacob Evans added 10 points for the Bearcats (16-2, 5-0 American Athletic Conference), who won their ninth straight game.
UCF (12-6, 3-3) got seven points apiece from Tacko Fall, Terrell Allen and Dayon Griffin, but struggled the entire game to get inside the Bearcats defense. UCF shot just 30 percent for the game and committed 14 turnovers.
It was expected to be a defensive game and both teams played up to that for the entire 40 minutes.
Cincinnati, which has suffered slow starts in its last three games, overcame this one by using speed in transition to beat the Knights down the court. That was especially effective when Fall, UCF’s 7-foot-6 center, was on the bench, which he was when Clark made a layup to put the Bearcats ahead for good at the 13:40 mark of the second half.
Clark’s basket was the start of a 10-2 run that gave Cincinnati a 38-30 lead.
UCF made a brief run when Fall got six straight points on two dunks and a layup to cut the deficit to 39-36, but the rally died when the Knights center missed two free throws on the next possession.
Clark took an alley-oop pass and slammed it home at the other end to push Cincinnati’s lead to 45-36 with 3:52 left in the game and UCF never got closer.
Cincinnati hit only six of 26 shots (23.1 percent) in the first half and had several long stretches without a field goal. The Bearcats had more turnovers (5) than assists (3) and Clark was the only Bearcat to score more than one field goal in the half.
The story was nearly identical on the UCF side. The Knights shot just 22.6 percent (7 of 31) and Taylor was the only UCF player with more than one field goal in the half.
Cincinnati advanced to No. 12 in the rankings this week, but that ranking looked in jeopardy when they couldn’t find an offensive spark against a very good UCF defense. The Bearcats relied on the 6-foot-8 Clark to keep them alive until Cane Broome’s 3-pointer in the second half took the lid off the basket. That was the start of an 8-0 run that allowed Cincinnati some much-needed breathing room. The Bearcats head home where they have won 35 straight and should solidify that national ranking. UCF, meanwhile, will look at the film and wonder how they missed so badly on shots around the basket. The Knights had several opportunities to get big leads in the first half, but hit only seven of 31 shots, many of them layups.