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Cincinnati Opens with a Slam, Defeating Western Carolina, 97-72

Opening their 2015-16 season UC defeated Western Carolina 97-72 Friday night.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bearcats opened their regular season tonight against Western Carolina and they opened strong, winning 97-72. They came out scoring on offense and proved that this season's offense should be a step-up from last years.

While the offense was a little worrisome last season, the defense was suffocating a year ago. With the additions of a couple offensive-minded freshmen, a renewed focus on the offensive end of the court and more of that defense, Mick Cronin and the returning Bearcats are entering this season with high hopes.

So far, so good.

The Bearcats jumped out to a 9-2 lead and continued on, never relinquishing the lead over the rest of the game. At halftime, the game was all but over with Cincinnati leading 42-22 and well in control.

Gary Clark came out hot and scored 21 points throughout the night, scoring on 9-of-10 shots. Clark also pulled in eight rebounds and registered three blocks against the smaller Western Carolina Catamounts. Octavius Ellis earned his first double-double of the season, scoring 17 points and reeling in 10 rebounds. Center Coreontae DeBerry added 12 points off the bench.

In Cronin's return to coaching, after a medical issue forced him to step away from the team last December, the Bearcats shot 61% for the game, creating a number of good looks for themselves. Cincinnati out-rebounded the Catamounts 43-27 and shot a solid 42.9% from behind the three-point line.

While the Bearcats weren't perfect, (see the 17 turnovers compared to Western Carolina's 11) Cincinnati was effective in pressuring the ball in the half-court and then getting out on the fast break quickly, setting up easy shots in transition. Even in the half-court offensively, Cincinnati passed the ball well, quickly cycling through the offensive motion.

An all-around solid performance by the Bearcats offensively and defensively showed that this team, picked third by the coaches in the AAC, is a force to be reckoned with and has the looks of a tournament team.

The Bearcats play next on Sunday at 2:00 PM against Robert Morris at Fifth Third Arena.

Final Stats