CINCINNATI (AP) — Forty-nine points in his last 51 minutes. Sean Kilpatrick seems to like Cincinnati’s new up-tempo offense.
The junior guard scored a career-high 29 points on Sunday, hitting eight shots from behind the arc, and the 24th-ranked Bearcats dominated from the outset of a 93-39 victory over North Carolina A&T.
The Bearcats (3-0) opened with a 14-point run that featured four 3s by Kilpatrick, who got wide-open shots all around the arc. Cincinnati’s lead never slipped below double digits. It wound up as the Bearcats’ most lopsided win since 1994.
And Kilpatrick was right in the middle of it.
“None of that surprises me,” coach Mick Cronin said. “His preparation every day for every game is as good as I’ve ever been around as a coach. It’s off the charts.”
Kilpatrick had 21 points in the opening half and matched his career best with six 3-pointers. He made more shots from beyond the arc than the Aggies (1-3) did overall in the half — NC A&T was 4 of 30.
“I was just playing within the flow of the game,” said Kilpatrick, who finished 10 of 15 from the field, including 8 of 12 from behind the arc. “Everyone was finding me early. On top of that, we just had open shots.”
Kilpatrick had a big game all-around, getting seven rebounds and five assists in 26 minutes. He has 49 points in the last two games, adapting quickly to the Bearcats’ new push-the-pace style of offense that spreads out the guards.
“It opens the floor more to better opportunities,” Kilpatrick said. “You find players if they’re open because the whole floor is open.”
The Aggies knew what he could do, but left him unguarded too many times.
“We didn’t make the adjustments,” coach Cy Alexander said. “We told them what he was capable of doing. This was the first game that I was disappointed in our defensive effort. We knew what we had to do from a defensive standpoint and we didn’t do it.
“It appeared to me from the sideline that we were somewhat intimidated, which there is no excuse for whether you are playing mid-major, high-major, or whatever major. You’ve got to step up to the competition that you are playing against. We didn’t do that. We played like a team who was scared.”
North Carolina A&T shot only 15 percent from the field (10 of 66) with 20 turnovers. Lamont Middleton led the Aggies with 11 points.
Kilpatrick set a career high for scoring on his eighth 3-pointer with 10:26 left, completing a 16-0 run for a 68-24 lead. At that point, the Aggies had only seven field goals combined.
The only blemish for Cincinnati was free-throw shooting. The Bearcats came in averaging 59.6 percent from the line and missed 11 of their first 14. The crowd of 5,582 cheered when Cashmere Wright made a free throw that ended a streak of seven straight misses in the second half.
Cincinnati finished 9 of 23 on free throws, prompting Cronin to schedule a special practice for Monday morning.
“We’ve all got 7 a.m. free throws,” Kilpatrick said. “So no late-night watching (television). We’ve got to go to sleep.”
The Aggies repeatedly shot air balls over outstretched arms, missing their first 10 shots overall. They didn’t get their first field goal until Lamont Middleton scored at the 12:37 mark, making it 17-3. Six of their shots were swatted away in the first half.
North Carolina A&T also had trouble holding onto the ball against Cincinnati’s extended man-to-man defense. The Aggies had 12 turnovers while falling behind 47-16 at halftime.
The Bearcats are using their early games to build a 10-man-deep bench for Big East play. Cronin used his reserves a lot during an 80-57 win over Tennessee-Martin and a 102-60 win over Mississippi Valley State, and quickly got some of his reserve in against the Aggies.
No matter who was on the floor, Cincinnati’s defense was too much for the Aggies, who couldn’t score more than five points in a row.