Cincinnati refused to go away against Rutgers Saturday but came up short in a 55-44 loss at Fifth Third Arena.
The Scarlet Knights stretched their lead to as many as 18 in the second half before UC cut the deficient to nine with 5:31 remaining, after guard Shareese Ulis knocked down a deep 3-pointer.
UC would get no closer the rest of the way.
"We're undersized, we're not as quick, not as athletic, but we're going to fight no matter what," said head coach Jamelle Elliott. "I don't care if we're playing Rutgers or the [Los Angles] Lakers. At the end of the day we got heart. But heart only takes you so far if you're not executing what the game plan is [or] taking advantage of the open shots you have around the basket."
The Bearcats (8-8, Big East 1-3) dug themselves a hole early shooting 3-12 from the floor and trailed 20-9 with 8:34 left in the opening half.
UC went 0-8 from the field before freshman forward Tiffany Turner ended Cincinnati's scoring drought.
Ulis led all scorers with 20; no other Bearcat hit double figures.
"Coach has been talking about having an offensive mindset," said freshman guard Kayla Cook. "We got to help [Ulis] out. Rutgers had three players with [at least] 15 points and they came out with the win. We got to have the same balance in the score sheet."
The three active leading scorers behind Ulis, Chanel Chisholm, Shelly Bellman and Cook, combined for seven points. Freshman forward Tiffany Turner nearly tallied a double-double with nine points and eight rebounds.
"The problem is Tiffany [Turner] hasn't been playing well," Elliott said. "She plays great today. Chanel [Chisholm] who has been playing great for six games in a row, now all of the sudden doesn't play [well]. I want all of us to play well."
Elliott attributed Turner's strong performance to being more active on the offensive glass.
"Tiffany [Turner] gave us some second chance points because she was a little more aggressive today," Elliott said. "She had three offensive rebounds, so she was little more active than she has been in the last six or seven games."
Rutgers guard Khadijah Rushdan and forward Monique Oliver posted 16 points apiece.
The Scarlet Knights had a distinct size advantage over the Cats and outscored UC by 20 in the paint.
"The game plan going in, was whenever somebody caught the ball in the post, our guards were supposed to get in there and make them pass the ball outside," Elliott said. "Sometimes we did it, sometimes we didn't."
Cincinnati trailed 30-20 at halftime.
The Bearcats committed just six turnovers in both halves.
10-3 run from the Scarlet Knights to open the closing half nearly put the game out of reach before UC went on a 8-2 run.