CINCINNATI (AP) After Cincinnati gave up an uncharacteristic 81 points to Iowa State and 77 to Temple in late December, coach Mick Cronin voiced his displeasure.
On Saturday, the defense returned in convincing fashion.
No. 22 Cincinnati held Tulsa to 22 percent shooting in the first half, built a 24-point first-half lead and beat the Golden Hurricane 76-57.
''Coach was telling us all week that teams are too comfortable playing us, too comfortable coming in our gym and moving the ball freely, passing it and shooting it,'' Cincinnati forward Gary Clark said. ''So we really tried to be aggressive on the ball.''
Guard Farad Cobb scored 13 points in the first half and 21 overall, including five 3-pointers, and was the only player to score in double figures for Cincinnati (11-4, 1-1 American Athletic).
''Our defensive activity, in every way, shape and form, was much better today,'' Cronin said. ''We want to have less than 10 turnovers, 40 deflections, be plus-seven each half on the glass, and hold teams under 38 percent. If we worry about those things, the rest of our season will take care of itself.''
The Bearcats had 13 turnovers and outrebounded Tulsa by eight, but the key on defense was holding Tulsa to 33.3 percent shooting. Tulsa (8-6, 0-2) got on the board 2:02 into the game on a layup by Shaquille Harrison. After that, the Golden Hurricane missed their next 12 shots over the next 10:49.
By the time James Woodard scored on a fast-break layup with 7:09 left in the first half to end the drought, Cincinnati had built a 30-11 lead. At one point during the scoring drought, Tulsa did not even attempt a field goal for over 4 minutes.
The Bearcats had their most physical game of the season, with 16 fouls in the first half and a season-high 24 for the game.
''They whipped us. They physically whipped us,'' Tulsa coach Frank Haith said. ''They were just more aggressive, played with great toughness - much more toughness than our guys did. They set the tone early in the game the way they competed and how hard they went at it on both ends of the court.''
Tulsa attempted 21 free throws in the first half, but its season-long struggles from the line continued. The Hurricane were shooting just 67 percent from the free-throw line entering the game and finished 17 of 25.
Cincinnati led by 14 at halftime, extended its lead early in the second half to 22 points and kept a comfortable margin for the rest of the game.
Tulsa's Harrison had 15 of his 21 points in the first half. Woodard, who came in averaging 16.5 points, finished with nine.
Tulsa: Tulsa's D'Andre Wright was ejected with 5:05 left after being charged with a flagrant foul for hitting Cincinnati's Gary Clark hard as he went for a layup. ... Tulsa is 2-14 against the Bearcats in Cincinnati.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats beat Tulsa on the boards 39-31 and have outrebounded every opponent this season. ... Entering Saturday's game, Cincinnati's field goal percentage (45.7 percent) was its highest since 2003-04 (45.8 percent). That average remained consistent Saturday as the Bearcats shot 45.8 percent.
Tulsa: hosts East Carolina on Tuesday.
Cincinnati: is at SMU on Thursday.