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No. 19 San Diego State falls apart in overtime, loses to Cincinnati 71-62

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CINCINNATI — San Diego State's defense fell apart in the game's biggest moments.

Farad Cobb hit a 3-pointer that put Cincinnati in control in overtime, and the Bearcats pulled away to a 71-62 victory over the 19th-ranked Aztecs on Wednesday night.

The Bearcats (7-2) were coming off a 56-55 double-overtime loss at Nebraska on Saturday night that underscored their season-long struggle to hit shots. Cobb made the one in overtime that made the difference.

San Diego State (7-3) lost for only the second time in its last 20 overtime games. And it was clear what led to this one.

"We've got to get better," said Winston Shepard, who had a game-high 17 points. "We've been living off our hype from last year."

Shepard made a pair of free throws with 3.9 seconds left that tied it 57-all and sent it overtime. The Aztecs were outscored 14-5 in overtime.

The Bearcats had a 35-33 edge in rebounds, including a 24-17 advantage in defensive rebounds that made the difference.

"We've got to get better on defense," Shepard said. "Defense is our staple. A lot of people talk about offense, but we've got to get better at the other end of the floor.

"If we're going to be as good of a defensive team as we want to be, we've got to get that rebound to finish the possession," he said. "You can play defense for 35 seconds but if you don't get the rebound, it doesn't matter."

Cincinnati is tough to beat at home, where it's 24-1 since the start of the 2013-14 season. The only loss was to Louisville 58-57 last season.

The Bearcats got the better of a matchup of teams that rely on defense to pull out low-scoring games. Cincinnati came in ranked ninth nationally, allowing 52.8 points per game. San Diego State was 14th, giving up 55 points.

It played to form. The Bearcats were only 4 of 11 from beyond the 3-point arc, while the Aztecs were 5 of 25.

After Cincinnati's second shot clock violation of the first half, Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson — sitting in the front row courtside — buried his face in his hands.

The Aztecs made 5 of 9 while pulling ahead 13-6 for their biggest lead of the game, with Cincinnati missing seven of its first 10 shots. The Bearcats went to a full-court press, forced back-to-back turnovers and brought the Aztecs' offense to a halt.

PHOTO: San Diego State's coach Steve Fisher directs his players against Cincinnati in the first half of their NCAA college basketball game in Cincinnati Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Tom Uhlman)
San Diego State's coach Steve Fisher directs his players against Cincinnati in the first half of their NCAA college basketball game in Cincinnati Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Tom Uhlman)

San Diego State didn't score over final 6 minutes, 20 seconds of the half, helping Cincinnati pull ahead 22-20.

"We knew they had a good defense," coach Steve Fisher said. "We knew they presented problems. They're a tough-minded basketball team and they make you pay. We didn't do quite enough. It's a game we could have won."

There were four ties and five lead changes during the first 8 minutes of the second half. Shepard had a pair of free throws and a layup during an 11-4 run that put the Aztecs up 43-38.

Jermaine Sanders' 3-pointer — only Cincinnati's second 3 of the game — helped the Bearcats catch up. Cobb's 3-pointer gave Cincinnati a 52-49 lead with 2:12 to go, matching its biggest lead of the game to that point.

CHOL OK

San Diego State's Angelo Chol slipped while making a dunk in the second half, aggravating a left knee that has been troubling him. He went to the bench for treatment and returned. Fisher said the injury doesn't appear to be serious.

LOT OF POINTS

The 71 points were the second-most allowed by the Aztecs this season. They beat BYU 92-87 in double overtime.

TIP-INS

San Diego State: Since the start of the 2010-11 season, San Diego State is 33-15 on the road, the third-best winning percentage in Division I. Only Wichita State and Kansas have better road winning percentages over that span. It was the Aztecs' first game in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats had another game without a big offensive game by a player. Six players scored at least seven points.

UP NEXT

San Diego State opens a four-game homestand against Ball State on Saturday, followed by games against UC Riverside, San Diego Christian and Air Force in its Mountain West opener.

Cincinnati played the first of three home games in a seven-day span. The Bearcats host VCU on Saturday and Wagner on Tuesday.


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