Cincinnati rallies past UCF late in second half


Dan Skillings Jr. keyed an 11-0 run in the final five minutes and finished with a team-high 21 points to rally the Cincinnati Bearcats past the visiting Central Florida Knights, 68-57, in a back-and-forth Big 12 contest Saturday night. John Newman III added 19 for Cincinnati (14-6, 3-4), which rallied from a 12-point halftime deficit and won for just the second time in six games. Marchelus Avery scored 19 and Jaylin Sellers added 17 to lead UCF (12-7, 3-4), which was outscored 41-18 in the second half and fell short of delivering coach Johnny Dawkins his 300th win. With Cincinnati shooting just 2-for-13 from 3-point range, Skillings drilled a crucial triple with 2:19 left to put the Bearcats up, 57-52. Cincinnati finished the game on an 18-5 run. Cincinnati was dealt a big blow moments before the game when leading scorer and second-leading rebounder Viktor Lakhin was ruled out with an apparent illness. Lakhin, averaging 12.7 points and 7.5 rebounds, participated in the pregame shootaround and warmups before not coming out for introductions. Lakhin had started the previous 19 games this season for Cincinnati. Without Lakhin, Cincinnati came out on fire, making four of its first five shots from the floor, including a pair of threes, to race out to a 15-6 lead. After falling behind by nine, UCF went on a 28-8 tear to take a 34-23 lead. The Bearcats scored the next four points before UCF finished the half on a 5-0 spurt to take a 39-27 halftime lead. Cincinnati came out on an 8-2 run to start the second half, highlighted by an alley-oop dunk by Aziz Bandaogo on a perfect pass from Day Day Thomas. But the Knights immediately built the lead back to 10. A wild sequence sparked a 9-0 Cincinnati surge that brought the crowd to its feet and trimmed the deficit to 45-44 with 11:44 left in the game. Thomas converted the front end of a pair of free throws but missed the second. Skillings was there for the offensive rebound and easy layup. On Cincinnati’s next possession, Skillings drove to the basket but lost control on a behind-the-back move. The ball wound up in the hands of Newman, who finished the layup with a free throw to cap the nine-point run.