Cashmere Wright scored all 11 of his points after halftime and Dion Dixon and Sean Kilpatrick each scored 16 in the game to help Cincinnati pull away from DePaul for a 74-66 Big East win on Saturday night.
“It’s good to get the monkey off our back, but there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done,” Dixon said.
Justin Jackson, who’d scored a total of 10 points in his previous four games, set a career high with 14 points for the Bearcats (16-7, 6-4), who ended the game with a 12-2 run.
“I knew I hadn’t played good the last couple of games,” said Jackson, whose previous career high was 11. “I just got my head focused and played hard.”
Coach Mick Cronin spent the week since Cincinnati’s last game reminding Jackson about his lack of productivity.
“He worked hard on being a better player, and it showed,” Cronin said.
Yancy Gates also finished in double figures with 11 for Cincinnati, which took the lead for good at 65-64 on Wright’s 3-pointer with 4:12 left in the game.
“I just wanted to win,” Wright said. “I went out and played hard and took what they gave me. (Cronin) kept telling me to attack, attack, attack. He said, ‘If you miss, just keep going to the hole.’”
Cleveland Melvin scored 18 points and grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds to lead the Blue Demons (11-11, 2-8), who have lost seven of their last eight games. Melvin had his third double-double of the year and second in consecutive games by halftime with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Jamee Crockett added 17 for DePaul before fouling out with 5:39 left in the game.
The Blue Demons, who won at Rutgers on Jan. 25, were trying to win back-to-back Big East road games for the first time since January 2007.
Mistake-prone DePaul committed 18 turnovers, helping Cincinnati enjoy a 22-10 advantage in points off turnovers. Blue Demons coach Oliver Purnell considered that problem to be the key to the game.
“We did most of what we wanted to do except take care of the basketball,” Purnell said. “That put pressure on our offense and defense. It came back to bite us, because we couldn’t get a working margin. Give Cincinnati credit. They finished with a flurry.”
Crockett, who scored just seven points in DePaul’s last game, scored eight in the first 4 minutes to help the Blue Demons open up a 9-6 lead. Melvin followed up with 12 in just over 4 minutes as the Blue Demons led by as many as five points twice in the first half.
The Bearcats, the Big East leaders in 3-point field goals going into the game, missed their first eight before Kilpatrick connected with 7 seconds left in the first half to cut DePaul’s halftime lead to 38-36. They went 3 of 15 on 3-pointers for the game.
The Blue Demons, who were second in the conference in 3-pointers, made just 2 of 10 in the first half and finished 5 of 17 for the game.