CINCINNATI - After scoring just 11 points in the first half the Bearcats offense churned out 44 second-half points, shooting at a 72 percent (18-of-25) clip over the final 20 minutes to earn a 55-53 road win Saturday afternoon against Temple.
Trailing by four with 1:59 to play, Cincinnati (11-14, 4-10) out-scored Temple (12-13, 6-8) 8-2 to close out the contest including five points from Junior Alyesha Lovett (Newark, N.J./Malcolm X Shabazz). With 1:37 left, Jasmine Whitfield (Crestwood, Ky./South Oldham) cut the lead to one with a layup and the and-one free throw.
Temple pushed the lead back to three with a score from Natasha Thames with 1:18 forcing a UC timeout. Lovett, playing in front a large crowd of family and friends, then drilled a three on Cincinnati's next possession to tie the game at 53 with 49 seconds remaining.
Kayla Cook (Webster, Ohio/South Webster) gave UC the ball back after stepping in and taking a charge on a Shi-Heria Shipp drive with 25 seconds remaining. Lovett netted what proved to be the game-winning points, hitting both of her free throws.
Cincinnati's defense clamped down from there as Chelsea Jamison (Indianapolis, Ind./Broad Ripple) and Jeanise Randolph (Chicago, Ill/Thornton Fractional North) each recorded blocks while Whitfield had a steal in the final seconds to prevent a game-tying Temple bucket.
Lovett's 20 points set a new career-best for the junior. She scored seven of UC's final ten points over the last 2:17 of the contest. Also handling the point-guard duties most of the day, Lovett was 8-of-16 from the floor, tied her season high assists total (4) and career-high blocks total (4).
Randolph finished one rebound shy of her 10th double-double of the season. The senior was 7-of-11 from the floor with four blocks and two steals. Whitfield completed the trio of double-digit scorers for UC with 11 points also dishing out four assists. Cook added eight points and four steals.
In the first half, the Bearcats scored six unanswered points to take a 10-7 lead at the 10:32 mark. However, UC went cold from the field from that point, managing just one free throw the rest of the half. The Owls 10-1 scoring advantage over the final nine and a half minutes gave them a 17-11 lead at the half.
The defenses battled in the first half as each team shot under 25 percent in the first 20 minutes. Neither squad was able to connect from three-point range, going a combined 0-for-17 from behind the arc. Temple had eight steals while Cincinnati had six.
Cincinnati's offense quickly picked up to start the second half as UC doubled their scoring effort from the first half after just nine minutes and 10 seconds. Whitfield's three-pointer on UC's second possession of the second half provided a large spark for the Bearcats as they went on to hit seven straight shots to open the frame, accounting for a 12-0 run.
Through 13:22 of the first half Cincinnati was 12-of-14 from the field, pushing their lead to as many as seven. But Temple wouldn't go away, using a 10-2 run over a four minute span to take a four-point lead with 3:09 remaining and setting up Lovett's heroics down the stretch.
Cincinnati will return home to face USF Wednesday evening inside Fifth Third Arena in a game televised on ESPN3.