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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Katrina McClain, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.

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Coogs lose to Cincinnati, 61-60

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Updated, 1/8/2014, 12:23 a.m.

Posted: January 7, 2014 -- 11:58pm CST.

HOUSTON, TX (Hofheinz Pavilion) -- An awful first half and an 8 minute scoreless drought hurt the Houston Cougars in a 61-60 loss to the Cincinnati Bearcats Tuesday night.

"Let me congratulate Mick (Cronin) and Cincinnati," said Houston head coach James Dickey. "We talked to the team about what their program and team was based on and it’s defense, rebounding and toughness. They brought it and they did a good job tonight.

"I was really disappointed in the way we started the game," Dickey added. "I thought we got back on our heels. We stood around too much and gave up too many offensive rebounds. We did not play like we’re capable of playing. They had something to do with it. I don’t want to take anything away from them.

The Coogs (10-6 overall, 2-1 in conference) trailed the Bearcats 40-24 at halftime and 43-24 early in the second half before mounting a comeback.

Houston guard Brandon Morris scored 12 points during a 23-10 run to pull the Coogs within three points (50-47) with 9:56 remaining.

However, the Coogs did not score a single point for the next 8 minutes. Four missed free throws and numerous missed field goals kept the Coogs from taking the lead.

“We got some good looks, but we missed some free throws," Dickey lamented. "We went through that situation against Rice in the second half where we would get stops on the other end; but, we couldn't extend the lead, and we couldn't get closer, because we couldn't make free throws.”

Cincinnati led 58-47 with 3:19 on the clock; but, the Coogs refused to go away.

Danrad Knowles started a run with a tip-in.

TaShawn Thomas made two free throws to trim the Coogs' deficit to 58-51 with 1:13 remaining. The Bearcats' Sean Kilpatrick split two free throws before Houston's Jherrod Stiggers rattled in a three with 51 seconds on the clock.

With 33.3 seconds remaining and down five points, Stiggers was fouled attempting a three-point shot; but, he missed the first two shots.

Trailing 61-57 with 12 seconds left, Tione Womack raced up the court; missed a short jump; and after a loose ball scramble, sank a three for the final score.

“Second half; we played but came up short." Dickey said. "You give up 31 points on second chance and turnovers you help them. We helped them. We went 3-for-9 from the free throw line in the second half. We helped the cause. Very disappointing, but it’s a long conference season. We’re just disappointed that we let one get away at home.”

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