CINCINNATI (AP) — Coach Mick Cronin watched the last 18 minutes of the game from Cincinnati’s locker room, hoping his first career ejection didn’t result in a loss. Jarron Cumberland made sure it didn’t happen.
The junior scored a career-high 34 points and hit the biggest shots after Cronin was kicked out Tuesday night as Cincinnati blew a 14-point lead before rallying to an 82-74 victory over South Florida on Tuesday night.
“It was the first time I’ve ever seen that,” Cumberland said of the coach’s ejection. “We were just trying to calm him down. He didn’t really say nothing crazy.”
The Bearcats (15-3, 4-1 American Athletic) got their third win in six days. The last two came in overtime , and this one unfolded with their coach gone from the sideline.
Cronin got a technical from official Lee Cassell for raising his arms and challenging a foul called on Nysier Brooks. Cronin became enraged and had to be restrained by Brooks, drawing another technical from official Mark Schnur, resulting in his ejection.
“When I showed I was upset for that (first technical), his tough-guy buddy threw me out,” Cronin said. “What they did was almost penalize a group of kids, and they should be suspended.”
Cincinnati has won 10 straight games against the Bulls (12-5, 2-3), who suffered their most lopsided loss of the season. South Florida’s five losses have come by a total of 19 points. The Bulls were coming off an 82-80 overtime loss at Temple .
“We fought, we scrapped, we clawed, and we were just not quite good enough,” USF coach Brian Gregory said. “We’ve just got to keep getting better. We’ve got pretty good markers to look at the last couple of games on the road.”
LaQuincy Rideau scored 15 of his 26 points before fouling out in the second half, when South Florida managed to tie the score twice but couldn’t pull ahead.
Cumberland hit the big shots to blunt the comeback and finished 9 of 20 from the field and 14 of 16 from the free-throw line. After South Florida tied it for the last time 65-65, Cumberland had a jumper, three free throws and an assist during a 7-2 spurt that put the Bearcats ahead to stay.
During pregame warmups, Cumberland made his final shot, swishing one from the left corner. He hardly missed when it mattered.
“I was just in a rhythm,” he said. “I was just feeling it.”
South Florida: The Bulls are among the best in the country at getting steals, but their carelessness with the ball doomed them. They had 15 turnovers in the first half and 21 overall, setting up 30 of Cincinnati’s points.
Cincinnati: After back-to-back overtime wins, the Bearcats sweated out another one but came through the tough six-day stretch unbeaten behind Cumberland’s big game. The junior scored 19 in the first half.
Cincinnati is 33-8 overall in the series, including 19-1 in Cincinnati and 15-0 at Fifth Third Arena. South Florida’s last win in the series was 46-45 on Feb. 26, 2012 in Tampa. The Bulls’ only win in Cincinnati was 76-73 on Feb. 29, 1988 at the Cincinnati Gardens.
1K AND COUNTING
Cumberland became the 53rd Cincinnati player to reach 1,000 points career.
“It means a lot,” he said. “I’m proud of myself. It was a lot of work, and still more to come. I want more than that.”
South Florida’s Michael Durr appeared to twist his right ankle while getting a rebound with 2:20 left in the first and needed help getting to the bench. He returned for the start of the second half and finished with 10 points and nine rebounds.
The Bulls had a 27-23 edge on the boards, the third straight game Cincinnati has been outrebounded.
South Florida hosts Houston on Saturday.
Cincinnati plays at Wichita State on Saturday.