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Three Man Weave: UC's Second-Half Struggles Cement 75-69 Loss To Houston

By Russ Heltman,


Cincinnati's hopes at an at-large NCAA Tournament bid are finished.

CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Bearcats (14-8, 5-4) fought valiantly—but fell short again in a 75-69 loss to No. 3 Houston (20-2, 8-1).

Landers Nolley II (24 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists) shot the lights out with his second-best scoring outing of the season and got support from Viktor Lakhin (15 points, 5 rebounds) and David DeJulius (14 points, 9 assists).

Still, UC sputtered out in the second half as a slimmed-down rotation got gassed.

Houston freshman Jarace Walker (25 points, 7 rebounds) played his best game as a Cougar in a physical showcase.

Cincinnati has lost eight-straight games to Houston and is 0-7 in Quad 1/2 games this season.

Second-Half Collapse

The Bearcats led by seven at the break thanks to a scorching 8-of-14 start from outside. Then the wheels fell off like they often have before.

Cincinnati gave up a 26-9 run to end the game and shot just 30.3% from the field. Nolley and Lakhin combined for 19 points, while the rest of the roster posted seven.

Seven points.

Houston's historic No. 1 defense clicked into gear with fantastic passing lane closures and snuffed-out screens to get shooters open.

The flip was startling and no one outside Lakhin/Nolley found success. Fatigue seemingly played a role as the Cougars outrebounded UC 25-12 in the second half.

Nolley did sustain a knee injury scare, but that only knocked him out for a few minutes. It didn't help that Jeremiah Davenport (3-of-9, 8 points, 6 rebounds) and David DeJulius (3 points, 1-of-6 FGs, 2 assists after half) no-showed in the final 20 minutes.

Davenport's 30% season-long three-point rate got even worse on Saturday.

He went 2-of-7 from deep and was a team-worst -13 in 31 minutes. Unfortunately, these numbers just aren't improving. He is actively hurting the team's chances to win consistently this season.

Nolley Nails

The senior guard channeled his Hawaii magic from the Arizona game in a masterful performance. Houston's elite defense was the difference this time as Nolley finished with a scorching 26-efficiency score and an 83% true shooting rate.

Miller drew up a great game plan to feature the AAC's best three-point shooter. Nolley worked into silky actions all afternoon that even Houston's No. 1 ranked defense by efficiency couldn't slow down.

The result was offensive magic and the right elixir to give the Cougars a real test for the first time in the Miller era. Nolley reportedly dealt with a knee injury this week and missed a few practices.

The ailment didn't seem to hamper him at all on a day when UC needed every one of his triples. The knee knock he sustained in the second half affected the box score. Nolley did not score again following that sequence.

He played 35 minutes in a rotation that got very slimmed down for good reason: the season hung in the balance.

Only six players logged more than five minutes as Miller emptied the chamber with as much veteran talent on the floor as possible.

Nolley entered the day second across the league in three-point percentage and should earn a third-straight spot on the AAC Honor Roll with this continued consistency.

Walker Wills Again

The Cougars freshman continued showing his NBA potential in the home outing against Cincinnati. Walker posted a career-high 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting as UC drummed up no answers.

Walker's athleticism made easy work of Viktor Lakhin's size early in the game and he got the three-point shot cooking a bit as well 92-of-4 from outside).

The forward posted his second-best college shooting outing on a day when UC had no matchup to throw at him.

It was the full package from Walker. He is ESPN's No. 7 overall player in the upcoming NBA Draft. Houston signed him as the program's highest-rated player ever and it's paid huge dividends this season for a program that usually leans on veteran talent.

Walker's now posted 21 points and 25 points against Cincinnati across two games. He's the latest Bearcats killer in the Cougars' eight-game winning streak.

Cincinnati licks its wounds and now likely has to win out (AAC Tournament included) if it wants to make the NCAA Tournament. TeamRankings gave them a 1% chance at an at-large bid before this loss.

UC faces Tulsa at home this Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

Make sure you bookmark All Bearcats for the latest news, exclusive interviews, film breakdowns and so much more.

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