Jacksonville St.-Cincinnati Preview
Despite winning its season opener by 25 points, Cincinnati was far from perfect.
The 20th-ranked Bearcats seem to have a good chance of putting together a better performance Tuesday night when they host Jacksonville State in the first meeting between the programs.
Opening the season in the AP poll for the first time since 2003, Cincinnati defeated Alabama State 65-40 on Sunday. Yancy Gates had 15 points and 11 rebounds, Sean Kilpatrick had 13 points and nine boards and the Bearcats outrebounded the Hornets 44-31.
Cincinnati left a lot of points on the floor, however, missing 13 of 16 3-pointers and turning the ball over 10 times in the second half.
"If we want to be good, we've got to start getting to that 75-80 (points) range," Gates said. "We're just getting used to each other, trying to find a rhythm as a team. If we're going to win, I have to get double figures in rebounds and score the ball. It means I'm doing my part for the team."
Despite earning his 14th career double-double, Gates had a somewhat subpar showing. The 6-foot-9 senior, who averaged 15.8 points on 59.3 percent shooting in his final nine games last season, shot 6 of 15 from the field and missed four of seven free throws.
"Offensively, I thought he had an off night," coach Mick Cronin said. "I'm sure he'd tell you he was frustrated by his free throws. It's good when a guy can get a double-double and not have a good night. He's going to have to learn to deal with three or four guys coming at him."
Gates could have a few smaller guys trying to frustrate him Tuesday, as Jacksonville State doesn't have a player over 6-foot-7 on its roster.
Maybe part of the reason Cincinnati struggled in the opener was because it faced a solid opponent in Alabama State, which earned an NCAA tournament berth last season. It seems the Bearcats could have an easier time against a Jacksonville State team that finished with five wins a season ago.
The Gamecocks (1-1) are coming off Sunday's 58-44 loss to Marshall after opening the season Friday with an 87-64 win over Division II Miles College.
Jacksonville State trailed by one point at halftime Sunday but made only 9 of 34 shots (26.5 percent) after the break. Tarvin Gaines had a team-high 12 points for the Gamecocks, who finished at 30.9 percent shooting and missed 13 of 15 3-pointers.
"We aren't going to hang our heads but at the same time, we are not going to be satisfied," coach James Green told Jacksonville State's official website. "We did a lot of good things and if we can learn about the rhythm of the game we can get a lot better."
It seems like the Gamecocks, however, could have a difficult time improving their game against Cincinnati.
Jacksonville State, loser of 38 of 42 road games dating to 2008, has been outscored by an average of 33.2 points in losing its five games against ranked opponents since 2000.
Making matters worse, the Bearcats have won 11 straight home games over non-conference opponents by an average of 22.0 points.