Cincinatti closes out Merrimack late after Warriors were within single digits in the final five minutes
Viktor Lakhin scored 18 points to lead Cincinnati to a 65-49 victory over Merrimack on Tuesday night.
Cincinnati (9-2) only trailed 2-0 to open the game after Bryan Etumnu hit a layup. The Bearcats had a double-digit lead for most of the second half and improved to 8-0 at home.
Lakhin was 8 of 14 from the floor and had seven rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Simas Lukosius added 11 points for the Bearcats. Jamille Reynolds, a Temple transfer who made his Cincinnati debut on Saturday in an 82-68 loss at Dayton, added seven points to go with 11 rebounds.
Jordan Derkack scored 18 points and made three 3-pointers for Merrimack (5-7). Derkack scored 10 points during a 12-2 run that pulled the Warriors to 49-42 with 5:49 to play, but they did not get closer.
After Derkack's layup, the Bearcats went on a 7-0 run to build its lead back up to 14 points (56-42).
Cincinnati opened on a 23-9 run and led 27-17 at the break. Lakhin scored eight first-half points and Reynolds added five with six rebounds, and the pair combined for three of the Bearcats' five dunks in the half.
Merrimack was just 4-of-6 shooting from the free-throw line after Cincinnati allowed Dayton to shoot 30 free throws.
The Warriors forced 18 turnovers but scored just four points off turnovers. Cincinnati forced 19 Merrimack turnovers and scored 28 points off turnovers.
"I don't like the 18 turnovers at all,” Cincinnati coach Wes Miller said. “Give Joe Gallo credit; he's done a terrific job. He's built an identity and a big-time program. They won their league and couldn't go to the NCAA Tournament, the team they beat goes and beats Purdue. That's how good Merrimack is, and they've done that year after year.
"That zone is something coaches study. Sometimes coaches do things and everyone else wants to figure out how? Joe has a zone we're all trying to learn. It's unique, it's effective, and they're top-10 in turnover percentage. I knew we'd turn the ball over tonight."
NOTES: Merrimack's 49 points were its lowest output of the season. ... Cincinnati out-rebounded Merrimack 45-25.
NEXT: Merrimack plays Bucknell at home on Friday. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m. inside Lawler Arena. The game will be broadcast on NESN+.