Cincinnati – There wouldn’t be a second half collapse for the Bearcats Monday as Cincinnati did exactly what it was supposed to do against an undermanned team. The Bearcats brought increased intensity into the second half in increasing its 15-point halftime lead and beating Northwestern State, 71-43, in front of 4,505 fans.
“Obviously, I don’t think it takes a genius to say that’s the best we’ve played all year and that’s the best team we’ve played all year,” said head coach Mick Cronin.
With Cheikh Mbodj playing in his first game of the season, the Cincinnati frontcourt was back at full strength and they showed it. They brutally hit the glass leading to a plus-18 in rebounding.
“Cheikh is going to be a big help,” said forward Yancy Gates. “That took nine minutes off my play tonight. I was able to come out for longer stretches and come back in fresher. That is a big body. Instead of having just me and Kelvin (Gaines), that is a third big body so Coach Cronin can do different things with that; play us together, sub us in.”
As the Bearcats enforced their will in the paint, the Demons didn’t score any second chance points. Meanwhile Cincinnati managed 10 and scored 34 points in the paint.
Northwestern State (2-3), from Natchitoches, La., was picked by the league’s coaches to win the Western Division of the Southland Conference, the same league that Presbyterian plays in.
Despite the victory, there are still something’s that have to be worrisome for Mick Cronin. The Bearcats have yet to have a game with a positive assist-to-turnover ratio, and had 16 turnovers to 10 assists Monday. Cincinnati also has to deal with nagging injuries as Justin Jackson re-injured his Achilles and Kelvin Gaines hurt his shoulder.
“I think right now it is more mental than anything else,” said Cashmere Wright. “I’m thinking too much. I’m trying not to turn the ball over, but it is causing me to turn the ball over (more). If I get back to what Coach Cronin was saying, if you turn the ball over, then ‘oh well,’ just play. Just play aggressive and do your thing. Don’t worry about turning the ball over. Don’t worry about your stats, just keep playing.”
Yancy Gates led four Bearcats in double figures with his second double-double of the season, and 15th of his career, with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Sean Kilpatrick added 13 points, Dion Dixon 12 and Ge-Lawn Guyn with a career-high 10. It was the first time this season someone off the UC bench reached double-figures.