Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin blamed a lack of maturity and poor defense for his team’s recent loss.
The Bearcats’ next game could provide a test for both of those shortcomings as they visit a UAB team that is undefeated at home Wednesday night.
Cincinnati (6-2) broke into the Top 25 last month for the first time since 2006 and remained in the latest poll at No. 25 despite losing 83-79 in double overtime to Xavier on Sunday.
It was the first true road game for Cincinnati, which now travels to Birmingham, where it’s lost its last two and the Blazers are 5-0.
The Bearcats shot 37.6 percent and were outscored 28-10 at the free-throw line Sunday. They missed 12 free throws and got rattled early in the first half when forward Rashad Bishop and Xavier’s Jordan Crawford each drew technical fouls. The Musketeers went on a 12-2 run after that altercation.
“My guys lost their cool,” Cronin said. “We were concerned about everything except executing offensively and defensively. … We made some adjustments offensively and got the ball to the rim. But we didn’t finish the game.”
Freshman Lance Stephenson finished with a career-high 22 points. The 6-foot-5 forward missed a shot at the end of the first overtime after tying it at 61-all with 14.7 seconds left in regulation.
Stephenson was named Big East rookie of the week Monday after also scoring 17 in a 63-59 win over Miami of Ohio last Thursday. He added six rebounds against the Musketeers.
Cronin, however, would have liked to seen more, especially on the other end of the court from his best defensive player. Cincinnati hadn’t allowed a team to score more than 68 before Sunday.
“He played pretty well (although) I thought he gave (Xavier’s Terrell) Holloway some open shots,” Cronin said.
Holloway’s 26 points were the most any player has scored against the Bearcats this season.
Stephenson should be just as busy against the talented Blazers (8-1), who are led by Elijah Millsap’s 15.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. Three other players are averaging at least 9.4 points.
UAB has won its last seven and resumes play Wednesday after a lengthy break for final exams. The Blazers are coming off a 74-52 win over East Tennessee State on Dec. 4.
Jamarr Sanders scored 17 while Millsap had 11 points and 15 rebounds as the Blazers held an opponent under 60 points for the sixth time.
UAB is looking to improve to 9-1 for the first time since the 1993-94 season, when it won 14 of its first 15. The Blazers are holding opponents to 58.0 points and forcing close to 16 turnovers per game at home.
The Blazers have lost 10 in a row to Top 25 foes. Their last win over a ranked opponent was 80-74 at home over then-No. 3 Memphis on March 2, 2006.
Cincinnati beat UAB 87-80 last December. This will be the fourth straight season the former Conference USA rivals are meeting.
The Bearcats lead the series 15-9 but have lost seven of 10 in Birmingham.