CINCINNATI (AP) -- James White never had a game like this one.
The flashy forward made every type of shot, scored a career-high
25 points and had 10 rebounds Saturday night while leading Cincinnati (No. 20 ESPN/USA Today; No. 21 AP) to an 87-68 victory over Houston that showed what he can
do in the right setting.
"It was their style of play," said White, who has scored 20
points only one other time in his three-year career. "With the way
I play and them pressuring and double-teaming other guys, I was
finding open shots."
He wasn't the only one who dominated. Jason Maxiell had 10
rebounds, 14 points and eight blocks, helping the Bearcats (17-3,
6-1 Conference USA) roll to their 10th straight victory over
Houston. The Cougars (12-9, 3-4) are 1-22 against Cincinnati, which
leaves next season for the Big East.
The game provided the first head-to-head matchup of two of
Division I's most successful coaches. Cincinnati's Bob Huggins has
559 career wins, while Tom Penders -- in his first season rebuilding
Houston's program -- has 539.
Huggins had a whole lot more to work with in this one.
White tied his career high for 3-pointers by going 3-of-3 from
beyond the arc, and repeatedly drove past defenders for pull-up
jumpers or layups. White was 9-of-12 overall from the field.
His reverse dunk off an alley-oop pass from Jihad Muhammad made
it 56-32 and brought the crowd of 12,365 to its feet.
"I saw him play in high school," Penders said. "He's coming
on. He's finally playing the way I thought he would. I think Bob's
got him harnessed finally. He knows when to dunk, when to pull
Maxiell came up two blocks short of the 15th triple-double in
Cincinnati's history. Oscar Robertson, who averaged a triple-double
in his second NBA season, had 10 of them at Cincinnati. Rick
Roberson had one, Kenyon Martin had two, and Kenny Satterfield had
the last one on Jan. 29, 2001, against Tulane.
Maxiell went to the bench for the last couple minutes with the
game in hand, then learned he was two blocks shy of UC history.
"I tried to get back in, but they wouldn't let me," Maxiell
It was another dominating effort by Cincinnati's man-to-man
defense, which holds opponents to 35.8 percent from the field,
second-best in the nation. Houston shot only 32.9 percent.
The Bearcats also had pronounced advantages in rebounds (51-36)
and free throws, going 25-of-36 from the line while the Cougars
Houston opened the game by hitting a pair of wide-open shots,
getting the Bearcats' attention. One of the nation's stingiest
defenses dug in, holding Houston to 1-for-13 shooting over the next
seven minutes. Four of the Cougars' shots were swatted away
Nick Williams made a pair of 3-pointers and a three-point play
during that span, leading a 19-5 run that put the Bearcats in
control the rest of the way. They led by 17 points at halftime,
dominating every facet of the game.
Houston, the conference's worst rebounding team, tried to keep
up by fouling. Forward Ramon Dyer, the Cougars' leading rebounder,
had three fouls in the opening 3:25, sending him to the bench.
Cincinnati was in the bonus at the 15:44 mark of the first half,
and Penders sandwiched his face between his hands and shook his
head forlornly after Dwight Jones II picked up the team's 10th foul
on a charge less than 10 minutes into the game.
At that moment, Penders knew it was going to be a long night for
his team, which is 3-4 since upsetting Louisville on Jan. 5.
Afterward, he didn't have much to say about it.
"I don't have any grandiose statements," Penders said. "I
made them all to the refs."