CINCINNATI – Redshirt freshman Sean Kilpatrick scored 18 points, giving No. 25 Cincinnati some spark in a listless game, and the Bearcats bounced back from their first loss of the season by beating South Florida 74-66 on Wednesday night.
Cincinnati (16-1, 3-1 Big East) was coming off a 72-61 loss at Villanova that ended its 15-0 start, tied for second-best in school history.
The Bearcats were lethargic and trailed until Kilpatrick came off the bench and scored 12 in the first half, putting them ahead to stay. His 3-pointer with 12 minutes left gave Cincinnati an 11-point lead.
South Florida (6-12, 0-5) made several runs and cut the deficit to four twice, but faded and lost its seventh in a row. Ron Anderson Jr. had a team-high 13 points.
Senior forward Darnell Wilks made six free throws and a dunk to keep Cincinnati ahead down the stretch, matching his career high with 12 points. The Bearcats needed help up front: Power forward Yancy Gates had nine points and three rebounds, and small forward Ibrahima Thomas fouled out with 6:12 left and no points with two rebounds.
The Bulls outrebounded the Bearcats 32-25 but hurt themselves with 18 turnovers.
Cincinnati got off to that 15-0 start while playing in a half-empty home arena most of the time. The Bearcats drew their first capacity crowd for the previous home game, a 20-point win over crosstown rival Xavier, and were hoping to keep their 13,000-seat arena full the rest of the way.
Only 6,201 showed up for the Bulls, providing a lethargic mood that seemed to carry over to the court. Cincinnati shot only 33 percent while falling behind 25-19, unable to make open shots or stop the Big East's worst offense. South Florida came in averaging a league-low 62.5 points per game.
The Bulls pulled ahead despite guard Hugh Robertson picking up three fouls in the first 6:27, sending him to the bench.
Kilpatrick came off the bench and brought the Bearcats some energy. He got a rebound and drove the length of the floor for a layup, then hit a long 3-pointer that completed a 10-point run and put Cincinnati ahead to stay 29-25. Kilpatrick had 12 points in 12 minutes during the half, which ended with the Bearcats up 37-32.
Another 3 by Kilpatrick gave Cincinnati a 52-41 lead with 12:15 to go, the Bearcats' biggest lead of the game. When South Florida trimmed it to six, Kilpatrick hit another 3 to blunt the comeback. He finished 4 of 5 behind the arc.
A driving layup by Jawanza Poland got the lead down to 56-52, but he picked up his fifth foul the next time down the court. Poland had a team-high 10 points when he fouled out.