Cincinnati beats No. 18 Memphis 69-53

CLAY BAILEY Associated Press Published:

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- When Memphis' four-guard senior lineup doesn't perform to their experience level, it spells trouble for the 18th-ranked Tigers.

Cincinnati controlled the veterans Saturday, leading to poor shooting by Memphis and the Bearcats left town with a 69-53 victory.

"I've said it before, and I'll say it again," Memphis coach Josh Pastner said, "when our four senior guards play poorly collectively like they did, then we're going to struggle. And when they play well together collectively, we're a team (that) will be tough to beat."

Joe Jackson led the Tigers (10-3, 1-1 American Athletic Conference) with 13 points, but had only two in the second half. Michael Dixon, who along with Jackson comprise half of the senior quartet, scored 12 points, but was 4 of 12 from the field, part of Memphis shooting 33 percent for the game.

"Things didn't go our way in the second half," Jackson said. "We didn't get any shots to fall. All of us guards didn't play as well as we could have played. That's the basic reason we lost. We four guards just didn't get enough shots (to fall)."

Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said the key was controlling Jackson after halftime.

"He really initiates everything for them," Cronin said of Jackson. ". Once we stopped him from penetrating, it stopped other guys from getting layups, stopped him from getting baskets, free throws. I thought that was the biggest key."

The defense contributed to Cincinnati outscoring the Tigers 42-27 in the second half and holding Memphis to 9 of 37 from the field (24.3 percent).

The defense, along with Sean Kilpatrick scoring 11 of his team-high 18 points down the stretch, provided enough of a buffer to extend Cincinnati's winning streak to six straight, while Memphis saw an end to a three-game winning streak.

Justin Jackson finished with 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting, eight rebounds and a career high-matching seven blocks for Cincinnati (13-2, 2-0), while Shaquille Thomas had 10 points. The Bearcats recorded their first road win over an opponent ranked in the top 20 since winning at then No. 13 Connecticut 70-67 on Jan. 18, 2012.

"This is a huge win, and we have to keep everything rolling," Kilpatrick said. "This is just a stepping stone for us, and we have to keep it going as we continue conference play."

Cincinnati used a 13-3 rally to extend the lead to 52-42 in the second half. Eleven straight points by Kilpatrick made it 69-51 with about a minute left, but many of the Memphis fans already were headed for the exits.

"He's a great player. I wouldn't trade him for anybody at the 2 position, and we play him at the point at the end of the games," Cronin said of Kilpatrick. "He's such a luxury to have because he can make shots, he can handle the ball. He's getting to the point that he's an all-around player, not just a shooter. He controlled the game from that point on."

The Bearcats, who were hovering under 30 percent shooting in the first half, connected on 14 of 24 shots in the second half, including missing only one of their five shots from outside the arc.

Memphis was hindered by 16 turnovers and going 2 of 17 from 3-point range for the game.

"At some time, our shots (3s) are going to fall," Memphis guard Geron Johnson said. "It's simple basketball. If you check the stats, I think Chris Crawford is a 42 percent career shooter. Michael Dixon is at 45 percent, and Joe Jackson is at 48 percent. I was 35 percent last year."

Jackson, Dixon, Crawford and Johnson were a combined 14 of 49 for the game, and that included Jackson hitting 6 of 13. Crawford, for example, was 2 of 11 and missed four of five shots from 3-point range.

"I thought we did a great job of challenging every shot Crawford took," Cronin said. "He got some off, but we've got some long guys who really challenged him hard."