BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP)—A fresh and motivated UAB team refused to let No. 25 Cincinnati rebound or grab rebounds.
Elijah Millsap had 22 points and 15 rebounds Wednesday night to lead the Blazers to a 64-47 victory over a Bearcats team that was outhustled from the start and dominated on the boards three days after a double-overtime loss at cross-town rival Xavier.
The Blazers (9-1) showed no rust from a 12-day layoff and easily won their eighth straight game.
“The 12 days off really helped us get better as a basketball team,” coach Mike Davis said. “We knew Cincinnati came off a very emotional loss the other night versus Xavier. We knew how important it was for us to come out and really play with a lot of intensity on defense. It was the best performance we’ve had all season on defense.”
The Bearcats (6-3) shot just 32 percent, and for a change couldn’t compensate for that on the boards, getting outrebounded 47-34.
“We got totally outplayed,” Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. “We played like a team that wasn’t interested in coming out tonight. One team was overconfident and the other team was hungry and humble.
“It’s tough to win when you can’t make a shot.”
The Bearcats whittled a 15-point halftime deficit to eight twice in the opening minutes of the second half but trailed by as many as 25 points before a last-minute spurt.
They missed nine straight shots as UAB rattled off a 14-0 run to make it a rout. Hasty shots and turnovers helped keep Cincinnati from staging a comeback.
“When you’re down and playing a quality opponent, the value of a possession doubles,” Cronin said. “We’ve been doing this all year. Just giving possessions away. We’ve just outrebounded everybody and it’s made up for it. Anytime we tried to mount a run, we just gave the ball away.”
Howard Crawford added 14 points and George Drake had 10 for the Blazers, who have won 30 straight home games against nonconference teams and all 23 under Davis.
Millsap added four steals, three assists and two blocked shots.
Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati’s leading scorer, fouled out with 4:35 left and had eight points. He missed about 9 minutes of the first half after hurting his left ankle.
The freshman’s fifth foul came on a technical while protesting a charging call.
Dion Dixon had 13 points—11 in the second half—and was the Bearcats’ only double-digit scorer.
“We just couldn’t get in a groove as a team,” said Dixon, who didn’t think the problem was a hangover from the loss to Xavier.
“Nah, that didn’t have anything to do with it,” he said. “We’re a young team, we haven’t played many games on the road.”
Cincinnati made only three of 22 3-point attempts and was beaten to 26 rebounds by UAB’s backcourt of Millsap and JaMarr Sanders.
“That was an emphasis for us at the beginning of the game,” Millsap said. “We knew they were third in the nation in rebounding (margin), so that was one thing we wanted to do, make sure everybody got to the glass.”
The Bearcats ran into trouble practically from the opening tip against a team coming off a long break for final exams. UAB scored 11 of the game’s first 13 points and never allowed any sustained rallies.
Stephenson clutched his lower leg on the baseline after hobbling off the court just over a minute into the game and was helped to the bench, and shortly after that into the locker room. He came back with 10:20 remaining in the first half but attempted only two shots and didn’t score.
“He hurt his ankle and he couldn’t really move the way he wanted to,” Davis said.
The Bearcats trailed 34-19 at halftime after making seven of 26 shots and getting outrebounded 29-14. Millsap and Crawford accounted for 27 UAB points.
Millsap had a putback, steal and fast-break dunk in the final 37 seconds to keep Cincinnati from closing the gap before halftime.
Cincinnati’s first two losses had come in overtime by a combined six points. The Bearcats’ previous low was 59 points against Gonzaga and they couldn’t come close to that.
“We felt pretty fresh,” said Sanders, who had seven points, 11 rebounds and four assists. “The 12 days off paid a positive result for us. We wanted to come out and bring the fight to them and make them play our type of tempo.”