When the No. 20 Cincinnati Bearcats played the Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions earlier this week, they got off to an amazing start, going on a 26-2 run to open the game.
The start to tonight’s battle (and I mean battle) against the Cleveland State Vikings was not the same. In fact, the Bearcats trailed the Vikings and their No. 324 adjusted offense 25-23 with eight minutes to play in the first half. Luckily, they eventually found their rhythm and rode a big second half to an 81-62 victory to close out non-conference play.
Gary Clark scored 18 points to go with five rebounds for Cincinnati (11-2), which has won four-straight since losing back-to-back tilts against Xavier and Florida. Jarron Cumberland netted 16 points on 5-of-14 shooting and Kyle Washington put up 14 points and nine rebounds. The Bearcats shot 54.1 percent from the floor during the contest, even if leading scorer Jacob Evans only had seven points on 3-of-8 shooting.
So, no, it wasn’t the offense that had a problem. It was the defense, as too many easy looks for the Vikings kept the game closer for longer than it should have. Cleveland State drained 68.4 percent of its first half shots, including a 7-of-12 effort from beyond the arc. Kenny Carpenter and Bobby Word each had eight points in that first period, which still ended with UC up 43-34. Word did not score again and Carpenter finished with only 11 points for the Vikings (3-8). Tyree Appleby ended up pacing the visitors with 16 points.
For all that started wrong, the final result obviously looked fine. UC outscored CSU 48-24 in the paint and scored 28 points off of 17 turnovers. Now the Bearcats have more than a week to make sure they play that well for 40 minutes. After all, American Athletic Conference play begins on Dec. 31 against Memphis.