Defense hasn't been much of an issue this season for the University of Cincinnati men's basketball team.
Statistically, the Bearcats are the second-best defensive team in the American Athletic Conference (AAC) behind Houston.
Surrendering less than 64 points per game on 39% shooting, Cincinnati typically does an effective job of protecting the rim and not giving opposing teams easy lanes to the basket.
That wasn't the case on Saturday.
The Bearcats (16-8, 6-5 AAC) struggled against Tulsa's high screen-and-roll offense and gave up layup after layup, being outscored 44-26 in the paint.
First-year UC Head Coach Wes Miller called his team's defensive effort in the 83-77 loss to the last-place Golden Hurricane "frustrating."
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"I'm angry," Miller told The Enquirer. "They shoot 50% (53%, 32 of 61), we don't protect the rim, we commit silly fouls around the basket. I'm angry."
With the loss erasing any shot the Bearcats had of making the NCAA Tournament (outside of winning the AAC Tournament) and probably the NIT, Miller's challenge now is keeping his team's energy levels up and its focus sharp for its remaining seven regular-season games.
"It's college basketball in February," he said. "You've got to be able to respond. We've responded all year. We'll respond as a staff. We've got really solid, high-character young people. They'll respond. That's not my concern at this point. We have good kids."
The next test for Cincinnati is a home game Tuesday against Memphis. The Tigers (14-8, 8-4 AAC) have won five straight, including a 69-59 upset Saturday at Houston.
CINCINNATI VS. MEMPHIS: THE GAME
Tipoff: 7 p.m. on Tuesday at Fifth Third Arena
TV/Radio: ESPN+/WLW-AM (700)
Series info: Cincinnati and Memphis are set to meet for the 84th time, with the Bearcats owning a 47-36 advantage in the series. UC lost to the Tigers 87-80 on Jan. 9 in Memphis. Tuesday's game will be a makeup of the originally scheduled Feb. 3 matchup that was postponed due to inclement weather.
MEPHIS TIGERS SCOUTING REPORT
MEMPHIS (14-8, 8-4 AAC)
Coach: Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway, fourth season (77-40)
Offense: 76.6 ppg
Defense: 69.3 ppg
Player (Position, Height, Key Stat)
Alex Lomax (G, 6'0", 6.1 ppg)
Lester Quinones (G, 6'5", 9.4 ppg)
Landers Nolley II (G, 6'7", 9.4 ppg)
DeAndre Williams (F, 6'9", 11.2 ppg)
Jalen Duren (C, 6'11", 11.3 bpg)
CINCINNATI BEARCATS SCOUTING REPORT
CINCINNATI (16-8, 6-4 AAC)
Coach: Wes Miller, first season (16-8)
Offense: 70.5 ppg
Defense: 63.9 ppg
Player (Position, Height, Key Stat)
David DeJulius (G, 6’0", 14.7 ppg)
Mika Adams-Woods (G, 6’3”, 8.9 ppg)
John Newman III (G, 6’5”, 6.4 ppg)
Jeremiah Davenport (G, 6'7", 13.3 ppg)
Abdul Ado (F, 6’11”, 1.6 bpg)
PLAYERS TO WATCH
The reigning AAC Freshman of the Week averaged 14.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in a pair of wins for the Tigers last week. The 6-foot-11, 250-pound center shot 78.6% from the field on 11-of-14 shooting. Duren leads the AAC in blocks (40), rebounds per game (7.9) and blocks per game (2.2).
Davenport scored 21 points in just 22 minutes after being hampered by foul trouble the last time these two teams met in January. All of Davenport's points came from behind the 3-point line. The 6-foot-7 junior shot 7 of 10 from deep and added six rebounds and a steal against the Tigers.
KEY TO THE GAME
Memphis is a big team that uses its size effectively on both ends of the floor. The Tigers outrebounded the Bearcats 41-31 and owned a 42-24 advantage in points in the paint in the teams' last meeting. Despite that, UC only lost by seven. If Cincinnati's interior players (Abdul Ado, Hayden Koval, Viktor Lakhin and Ody Oguama) can keep it competitive by the rim and stay out of foul trouble, the Bearcats will have a chance to even up the regular-season series.
KenPom.com: Memphis (39); UC(81)
NET: Memphis (44); UC (79)
RPI: Memphis (58); UC (109)
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Cincinnati vs. Memphis: Bearcats look to get on track vs. Tigers