By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer
This was supposed to be little more than a routine chore the University of Cincinnati Bearcats had to complete before beginning to focus on next Wednesday's Conference USA showdown at Louisville.
Eventually, that's exactly how it turned out, the 10th-ranked Bearcats claiming an 85-57 victory over Texas Christian on Saturday night before 12,844 fans at Fifth Third Arena.
But UC (13-0 overall, 4-0 C-USA) found itself in an unusual situation with 6:22 left in the first half when it trailed the Horned Frogs (6-9, 2-2) by one point.
It was the latest that UC, one of the nation's four unbeaten teams entering Saturday, had trailed in any game this season and it seemed to wake up the Bearcats as they anticipated what they would hear at halftime from UC coach Bob Huggins.
"They came out with a lot of energy," UC forward James White said of the Horned Frogs. "We knew they were going to be fast, but not that fast. ... Once we adjusted, it was pretty easy."
That's not how Huggins saw it.
The UC coach, who picked up his first technical foul of the season with 56 seconds left and the Bearcats leading by 27, was as upset as a coach can be when his undefeated team wins by such a large margin. And he may have had a right to be angry - the Bearcats scored only four points in the final 7:49 and failed to make a field goal in that span.
"The last eight minutes everybody on the floor stopped playing," Huggins said. "Everybody on the floor stopped working except TCU.
"If we don't start playing the whole game and stop taking periods off, we're in for a fall."
UC placed four scorers in double figures, led by Tony Bobbitt's 16 points. White scored 15, his best output in a UC uniform, and Jason Maxiell had 15 points and six rebounds before leaving the game with a twisted ankle.
Huggins said his players began the game as if they thought they were in for an easy night.
"It looked like guys were trying to pad their stats," he said.
The Bearcats woke up in time to outscored TCU 23-9 during the final 6:22 of the first half, then buried the Horned Frogs at the start of the second, outscoring them 14-3 during the first three and half minutes to take a 58-34 advantage.
UC built the lead to 81-44 with 7:49 to go when lethargy set in.
"We just got sloppy," said forward Eric Hicks. "That's just us. Anytime you get up by a lot you don't execute like you should. We should have won by 50, but we didn't."
Again, Huggins wasn't buying it.
The Bearcats play at eighth-ranked Louisville (13-1, 4-0) on Wednesday night, then travel to play Southern Mississippi, which knocked off Marquette by 22 points Friday night, next Saturday.
In Huggins' view, this is no time to accept any kind of slacking off, no matter how big of a lead the Bearcats mount.
"This is the hardest week of the season to this point," Huggins said. "... These are two hard games against two teams that won't take possessions off like we do."
Team rebounds - 1.
Team rebounds - 3.
3-pointers - TCU 4-19 (Smith 0-2, Santee 1-5, Shropshire 3-7, Markley 0-1, Curtis 0-2, Pierce 0-2), UC 10-23 (White 1-4, F.Williams 4-6, N.Williams 1-5, Moore 0-1, Bobbitt 4-6, Whaley 0-1). Technicals - UC (team). Officials - Thibodeaux, Caldwell, Lickliter. Attendance - 12,844.
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