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Bearcats fall to Iowa in NCAA opener, 79-72

University of Cincinnati faithful pack Nationwide Arena in Columbus, but Hawkeyes upset puts UC on the road home

Despite being assigned a No. 7 seed, the University of Cincinnati men’s basketball team and its fans were delighted when they learned that their path in the NCAA tournament would begin about 100 miles away. The short trip to Columbus gave the Bearcats a home-like atmosphere at Nationwide Arena for their opening-round tilt against Iowa. Cincinnati faithful packed the nearby bars and restaurants before the game, and their voices drowned out the opposition for much of the contest.

“We have great fans — not a surprise at all,” said UC head coach Mick Cronin. “[We] appreciate all of them, and hope everyone gets home safe.”

The distance is the same, but the drive home is sure to feel much longer. Despite leading for more than 30 minutes and by as many as 13 early in the contest, UC fell to the Hawkeyes, 79-72. Iowa put up 48 points and shot a scorching 65.4 percent from the field in the second half, including 7-of-11 from 3-point range.

UC fans pose at a bar before the game.

Former UC players and friends rallied around the Bearcats in Columbus, including Kevin Johnson and Zach Tobler. Photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services

UC's Jarron Cumberland holding the ball while guarded by an Iowa player

Jarron Cumberland faces down an Iowa defender. Photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services

“Guys, we’re not going to win when we give up 79 points,” Cronin said. “I don’t remember the last time Cincinnati won a game where we’ve given up 79.”

“It’s tough,” said redshirt junior Trevon Scott. “A lot of people doubted us. A lot of people said we probably wouldn’t have gotten to where we are today, but we stayed together.”

The game is the last for seniors Justin Jenifer and Cane Broome, although the pair nearly willed the rest of the team — which shot at an uncharacteristically cold clip in the first half — to victory. Jenifer finished the game with a team-high 19 points. Broome scored 8, but not all contributions show up on the stat sheet. Driving an open lane with just under 9 minutes remaining in the second half, Broome was able to induce Iowa center Tyler Cook to foul him on a layup attempt. The foul was the fourth for Cook, who himself had drawn seven UC fouls.

“The toughest part of it is losing Justin and Cane,” said Scott. “We owe everything this whole season to these guys.”

Scott then turned to Jenifer, who was seated beside him at the postgame press conference. “I appreciate you for everything,” Scott told Jenifer.

“Love you, bro,” Jenifer said.

“Love you too, bro,” Scott replied.