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Box Score Deep Dive: Interior Play Fuels Bearcats’ Win

The painted area belonged to the Bearcats.

NCAA Basketball: Cincinnati at Mississippi State Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

The odds were heavily in favor of the Cincinnati Bearcats on Saturday against South Carolina State. UC was playing at home against a team that hadn’t secured a victory against a Division I team this season. The final result was as expected, with the Bearcats winning. However, to some, the 21-point margin of victory may have been closer than anticipated, especially after the Bearcats beat UCLA by nearly 30 points a few days earlier. Still, a 21-point win is nothing to be ashamed about. Let’s take a look at how the Bearcats were able to complete their final non-conference mission of the year.

The defensive intensity was at the highest level right away for the Bearcats. During the first 20 minutes, they hounded the Bulldogs, making every shot a chore. The Bulldogs were only able to connect on five field goals while shooting a miserable 20 percent from the floor and 15 percent from three-point range. Their leading scorer, Damani Applewhite, took seven shots, but only made two as he entered halftime with five points. The Bulldogs had 16 total at that point. While the Bearcats relaxed a bit after halftime, allowing 48 percent shooting, they certainly had the capability of stopping the Bulldogs whenever they wanted.

In a game like Saturday’s, where the result is essentially decided at halftime, reserves often get more of a chance. That was largely true this time for the Bearcats, with 10 players playing at least 10 minutes. With more backups entering the fray, the Bearcats outscored the Bulldogs 30-17 off the bench. Trevor Moore (10 points, 4-of-10 shooting) and Mamoudou Diarra (eight points, five rebounds) were the top alternates.

Diarra was one of the principal characters in UC’s absolute dominance in the paint. Nysier Brooks led the way with 17 points and eight rebounds, but players up and down the roster were able to get in close for buckets. The Bearcats ended up outscoring the Bulldogs 34-18 in the paint, while shooting 51.5 percent from two-point range. A great deal of those interior buckets were by way of second opportunities. UC had a 46-28 edge on the boards, but they were especially dominant on the offensive glass, with 16 offensive rebounds compared to six from the Bulldogs. With a 41.7 percent offensive rebound rate, the Bearcats supplied themselves with multiple shots frequently, and they ended up outscoring the Bulldogs 21-2 in second chance points. Brooks and Trevon Scott were the top offensive rebounders, securing four apiece.

While rebounding and bench scoring favored the Bearcats, there were some areas they didn’t dominate, even if you wouldn’t know it by looking at the final score. Some sloppy play from the Bearcats, perhaps fueled by the ballooning point differential, led to a 14-7 advantage for the Bulldogs in points off turnovers. The Bearcats also created only 13 total turnovers, although eight of those came in the first half when they were incredible defensively.

All told, this wasn’t the most impressive 21-point victory of all time, but it was an easy win all the same.

Best Individual Stat Line - Nysier Brooks

Brooks didn’t just lead the team in scoring, he did so in an efficient manner while working hard on the boards. His 17 points came on 5-of-8 shooting from the floor and a 7-of-8 effort from the foul line. His eight rebounds were a game-high and half of those were on the offensive end.