Cincinnati – For the first 20 minutes, the Cincinnati Bearcats looked like a team that could seriously challenge for a Big East title. The second 20 is a different story.
The Bearcats had their 24-point halftime lead dwindled down to 10 points as the Gamecocks went on a 15-1 run, but they were able to post the 73-59 non-conference victory over Jacksonville State University Tuesday at Fifth Third Arena.
“It’s always good to win,” said head coach Mick Cronin. “Two things: never devalue a win and give credit to your opponent. We all saw what happened. I let some guys stay in the game and get some conditioning. I’m not happy with anything, including our preparation -- which is on me. I have some older guys that I have to get to a better place in terms of preparing. I wasn’t happy with practice yesterday or anything. We have a group that really struggles with handling prosperity. ”
Hot shooting enabled UC to build the halftime lead as the Bearcats hits 7-of-8 from behind the three-point arc with senior Dion Dixon hitting 4-of-5. They were just 1-of-5 in the second half.
Part of the team’s second half deficiency was mental as they seemed to turn their attention to some place other than the Jacksonville State Gamecocks. With the lapse mentally, the Bearcats finished the game with 20 turnovers.
““Inexcusable,” said Cronin. “Obviously, I haven’t done a good enough job. I’ve been trying to save some of my intensity. It’s a long year. There comes a point where you have to let guys grow up a bit. They have to take ownership in what they are doing.
“I was unhappy with some guys’ intensity, but the last thing I was going to do was take timeouts and take them out of the game. For us to be a really good team, I have to get Cash, Yancy and Dion to be every-night guys. Those guys should be playing as good as they can play and be intense at all times.”
The starting backcourt of Dixon and junior Cashmere Wright combined for 43 of the team’s 73 points. Dixon scored 16 of his 20 points in the first half by shooting over the JSU zone, while Wright dropped 16 of his 23 points in the second half.
“There are guys that are on the All-BIG EAST team that he is as good or better than if he is healthy,” Cronin said of Wright. “He has to go to school and get his degree, and he as to live, eat and drink basketball. I’ve coached guys that never had a bad day at practice and if they did, they were ready to kill someone. Steve Logan was that way here.
Three players – Dixon, Yancy Gates and Justin Jackson – all had nine rebounds for a Bearcats team that held a plus-8 advantage on the glass over an undersized Gamecocks team that had only one player of 6-7.
BENCH PRODUCTION: If Cincinnati is going to competitive in the Big East, it is going to have to get more production out of the bench. The all-freshmen set of reserves have only scored 15 points total in two games. Jermaine Sanders scored all six of the reserve points in the JSU contest.
TAKING CARE OF THE BALL: Through two games, Cincinnati has more turnovers than assists. The Bearcats have recorded 29 assists, while turning the ball over 36 times.