With suspensions ruling out two of their key interior players for the next six games, many wondered what Mick Cronin's Cincinnati Bearcats would do to make up for the absence of Yancy Gates and Cheikh Mbodj. Without a consistent scoring option in the paint the strategy was to let the guards go to work, and that they did in the Bearcats' 78-58 win at Wright State. Sean Kilpatrick, who was a non-factor in their loss at Xavier on Saturday, scored a game-high 20 points (6-12 3PT) while JaQuon Parker added 14 points and all five starters finished in double figures.
Freshman Jermaine Sanders, one of the players expected to benefit from those losses as more minutes have become available, scored nine points and grabbed four rebounds in 18 minutes of play and point guard Cashmere Wright dished out eight assist to three turnovers to go along with 12 points. Cincinnati fired away from deep throughout the night, making 14 of their 32 shots from beyond the arc. The Bearcats average seven makes and 17 attempts from beyond the arc on the season, but with Gates out those numbers figure to increase until he returns.
A.J. Pacher and John Balwigaire scored 11 points apiece to lead the Raiders, who shot 47.5% from the field but turned the ball over 13 times and were out-rebounded 31-22. Two other areas that cost Billy Donlon's team were points in the paint (22-18 Cincinnati) and second-chance points (23-2 Cincinnati), and these are areas that one wouldn't expect Cincinnati to control given their lack of interior depth. But they found a way to do so, and with the offensive issues that Wright State's had this season (averaging 55 points per game) the Bearcats' fast start proved to be too much to overcome.
The good news for Cincinnati is that their next three games, Radford, Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Chicago State, are all winnable games that they should be able to win despite the depth issues. And with a loss to Presbyterian already on their resume it's critical that the Bearcats take care of business and avoid any more bad losses as there won't be another marquee non-conference opportunity available. Game one offered a blueprint for the Bearcats with regards to how they'll score with Gates out of the lineup, with the guards needing to take on greater scoring responsibilities. It also won't hurt if they can knock down shots from deep at a similar clip to Wednesday's mark.
Other Notable Happenings
1. Did an injury impact UCLA's defensive efficiency? It very well could have.
With forward Travis Wear missing Wednesday's game against Eastern Washington with a skin infection on his left foot there were minutes up for grabs in the frontcourt for someone. That turned out to be Anthony Stover, who missed the early portion of the season with a shoulder injury, and he took full advantage of the increased minutes in the Bruins' 60-47 win over the Eagles. Stover played 18 minutes but blocked three shots and grabbed three rebounds, providing the spark UCLA needed on the defensive end of the floor. EWU shot a season-low 25.9% from the field and turned the ball over 12 times to just five assists on the night.
Cliff Ederaine and Colin Chiverton had particularly rough nights as they combined to make just eight of thirty-one shots for a combined 21 points. Lazeric Jones had another solid scoring performance for the Bruins with 19 points to go along with six rebounds and four assists and Tyler Lamb added 14, but for Ben Howland's team to be successful they have to be better defensively. Wednesday was a step in the right direction, and they can partially thank Stover for that.
2. Charleston recovers from a slow start to defend their home floor against Tennessee.
To the surprise of many Cuonzo Martin's Volunteers led College of Charleston by as many as 11 points in the first half at TD Arena. But as the game wore on Bobby Cremins' Cougars got back into the game and would lead by as many as 14 in the second half on their way to the 71-65 win. This is the second straight season that Charleston has beaten Tennessee, and the tandem of Antwaine Wiggins and Andrew Lawrence led the way on Wednesday.
Wiggins scored a game-high 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds while Lawrence added 14 points, five steals and four assists. Charleston scored 22 points off of 16 Tennessee turnovers, and the six-point edge in that category proved to be the difference. The Cougars were also aided by a ten-point edge in points from the foul line (14-4), moving to 8-1 on the season as a result. It took some time but the Cougars were able to put together a stretch worthy of a team looking to compete for a conference title. The key now is to consistently put forth that kind of effort for entire games.
3. Princeton's three-pointer at the buzzer hands Rider their tenth loss of the season.
According to The Beatles, "one is the loneliest number", and in addition to that fact it was also the most important number in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. Mack Darrow made just one shot on the night: a three-pointer as time expired to give Princeton a 72-71 overtime win at Rider to drop the Broncs to a stunning 1-10 mark on the season. The Tigers probably should have sewn things up in regulation as they led 65-61 with less than 30 seconds remaining after trailing by as many as 16 late in the first half, but the Broncs sent the game into overtime thanks to four Brandon Penn points.
Things remained tight in the extra session but Rider left the door open by missing three of their final four free throws. Douglas Davis would take Daniel Stewart's second miss and drive down the court, finding Darrow for the game-winning bucket. The Tigers will be a factor in the Ivy League race but it's very difficult to say the same about Tommy Dempsey's Broncs in the MAAC. A team that many expected to finish in the top four at the very least may struggle to finish outside of the bottom four at their current pace, and that's something that no one familiar with Rider's talent expected in October.
1. In the lone afternoon game of the day Iona picked up a good road victory at Richmond. In the 88-79 win Scott Machado dished out 15 assists and scored 13 points while Mike Glover led the way with 24 points and eight rebounds. Iona shot 67.7% from the field in the second half and finished the game with an offensive efficiency of 118.9. Richmond opponents average an efficiency of 98.5 on the season.
2. Jared Sullinger didn't start for Ohio State but he did return to the lineup, scoring 12 points and grabbing ten rebounds in 25 minutes of action as the Buckeyes beat USC Upstate 82-58. Ohio State shot 56.9% from the field on the night, beginning to pull away late in the first half thanks to 13 forced turnovers. Deshaun Thomas led the way with 23 points, his ninth straight double-figure scoring outing.
3. Kyle O'Quinn scored 22 points and grabbed 14 rebounds and Quasim Pugh scored 10 points in 15 minutes off the bench as Norfolk State beat LIU 73-62. The Spartans limited LIU to 33.8% shooting from the field and 5-for-21 from beyond the arc.
4. FIU led for much of the night at Maryland but couldn't seal the deal, allowing the Terrapins to escape with 65-61 victory in front of a sparse crowd at the Comcast Center. FIU shot 35.5% from the field in the second half, and for the game Maryland outscored the Golden Panthers 22-9 from the foul line.
5. It isn't far-fetched to think that Denver may be the best team in the state of Colorado. Joe Scott's Pioneers beat Northern Colorado 71-65 in Greeley with Brian Stafford (16 points) and Royce O'Neale (14) leading the way offensively and Chris Udofia blocking three shots. Denver visits Colorado State on January 11th, and a win in Fort Collins would be another piece of evidence in support of them being the best in the state.
6. Baylor took care of business in their 69-42 win over Bethune-Cookman, but the real test comes on Saturday as they visit BYU. The Bears limited Bethune-Cookman to 34.8% shooting and Pierre Jackson scored 12 points and dished out four assists in 23 minutes off the bench.
Three Notable Performances
1. F Kyle O'Quinn (Norfolk State)
22 points, 14 rebounds and four assists in the Spartans' 73-62 win over Long Island.
2. G Scott Machado (Iona)
15 assists, 13 points and six rebounds in the Gaels' 88-79 win at Richmond.
3. F Ian Hummer (Princeton)
21 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and four steals in the Tigers' 72-71 overtime win at Rider.