December 05, 2015

Cincinnati couldn't come out on top in one of its toughest tests and won't have to wait too long to face another.

In between those difficult nonconference matchups, the 17th-ranked Bearcats will try to get back in the right frame of mind Sunday against visiting Morgan State.

Three Cincinnati defenders couldn't stop Butler's Roosevelt Jones from making the winning layup with 0.1 seconds left in a 78-76 loss Wednesday. The Bearcats (7-1) led for much of the second half and had an eight-point advantage with nine minutes to go.

"It's just going to humble us," guard Troy Caupain said. "We've got to be more prepared as individuals. We've got to come focused. We can't lose games like this. These are the games that you're going to see in March. Every game is a battle, and these are the games you want to win."

They face another such game next weekend after five days off. As part of an ambitious nonconference slate, Cincinnati will make the short trip to No. 12 Xavier on Saturday. The Bearcats will also travel to VCU on Dec. 19 and host No. 5 Iowa State three days later.

Morgan State (2-5) is not expected to present much of a challenge, having lost their seven matchups with ranked teams over the past five years by an average of 29.7 points. That includes an 86-48 season-opening loss at then-No. 6 Virginia as the Bears shot 34.0 percent, still a season low.

Cincinnati shot 50.0 percent Wednesday, a distinct improvement from its combined 40.7 percent in the previous four games, but uncharacteristically struggled at the defensive end.

Coach Mick Cronin's team allowed its highest point total of the season after previously giving up 54.6 per game. The Bearcats forced a season-low six turnovers and committed 14 while getting edged 12-7 on offensive rebounds.

"We didn't defend. We didn't rebound and we didn't take care of the ball," Cronin said. "It's my job to make sure we don't get manhandled. I thought that's what happened.

"Toughness is not about pushing guys. It's about not turning the ball over 14 times."

Octavius Ellis had 16 points and a season-high 12 rebounds, and freshman Jacob Evans III scored a season-high 16 off the bench.

Top scorer Farad Cobb, though, has gone cold. The senior has averaged 5.3 points in the last four games while going 3 for 13 from 3-point range, compared to 16 of 26 in the first four and scoring 16.5 per game.

The Bears have struggled offensively all season, averaging 59.6 points on 38.9 percent shooting. They connected at 37.7 percent Wednesday at Wagner but took a two-point lead into the final minute before losing 62-61.

Sophomore Phillip Carr had a season-high 17 points and leading scorer Kyle Thomas (13.3 ppg) had 12. Carr leads Morgan State with 8.9 rebounds per game and has averaged 12.0 in his last four games along with 12.8 points.

Cincinnati is facing the Bears for the first time.

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