CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Cincinnati found a way to stay unbeaten without a big offensive game from top scorer Sean Kilpatrick.
Cashmere Wright scored 14 points, including three 3-pointers during a key second-half run, and No. 11 Cincinnati beat Marshall 72-56 on Saturday.
Cincinnati improved to 10-0 for the second time in three seasons and the 10th time in school history.
The Bearcats shot 61.5 percent after halftime after struggling early.
They put the game away without leaning on Kilpatrick, who tied a season low with 13 points, seven below his average. The junior finished 5 of 15 from the floor, including a 1-for-7 effort before halftime.
“Ugliest first half of my life,” Kilpatrick said. “But I was able to get in the second half and make shots for my team, rebound the ball and (play) defense. That’s something we preach about every day. Defense wins games on the road.”
Justin Jackson added 10 for the Bearcats. D.D. Scarver and Elijah Pittman scored 20 points apiece for Marshall (6-5).
Cincinnati broke open a tight game with a 13-4 run midway through the second half.
Marshall’s Tamron Manning was called for an intentional foul to keep Shaquille Thomas from scoring on a fast break. Thomas made both free throws, Cincinnati got the ball back and Wright made three 3-pointers over the next 1:37 to give the Bearcats a 52-39 lead with 11:44 remaining.
Wright, who set a career high with six 3s in Cincinnati’s 92-60 win over Maryland-Eastern Shore on Dec. 8, had four against Marshall.
“He’s a rhythm guy,” Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. “Once he got his first shot to go down that can change a lot of things for him. I’d like to see him start the game the way he started the second half. He’s a great shooter for a point guard.”
Scarver made a foul shot and hit a 3-pointer after missing the second free throw to give Marshall a brief spark, but Kilpatrick put the Bearcats ahead by double digits for good with a 3-pointer with 7:55 left.
Kilpatrick scored nine points over the final eight minutes to avoid his first game in single digits.
“I might be the main scorer,” he said. “But we have tons of talent on this team and that’s something that will help us down the stretch.”
Cronin had plenty to say about Saturday’s announcement that the seven Big East schools that don’t play FBS football leaving the conference.
“I don’t blame them,” he said. “My take is it’s a shame that football, one sport, has dictated all this. The money that one sport is swinging around is swaying universities to make decisions. Don’t tell me that people care about student-athletes.
“It’s all ridiculous. Let’s call it what it is. I’ve thought about this long and hard and I’ve waited to say this. If it’s all about money and money grabbing, the players need to get paid.”
Last year, Marshall overcame a nine-point deficit in the second half and beat the Bearcats 73-69 in overtime in Cincinnati. DeAndre Kane made some key 3-pointers down the stretch in that game, but Marshall’s leading scorer wasn’t available on Saturday. He’s out indefinitely with a right hand injury.
Marshall committed 20 turnovers, made just 14 of 27 free throws and was outmuscled in the paint where it was outscored 40-16. The Thundering Herd shot 39.5 percent (17 of 43) from the floor.
“Their pressure didn’t allow us to get into any flow,” Marshall coach Tom Herrion said.
An early screaming from Cronin was all Cincinnati needed to turn around a slow start.
During a timeout, Cronin cussed and finger pointed in the huddle at his starting lineup, especially Kilpatrick, after Marshall hit three open 3-pointers, including two by Scarver.
“We were so much in a scramble for the most part that Scarver was just getting opens 3s,” Kilpatrick said. “That’s something he’s great at. We didn’t find him in certain situations, but when we did, we tried to rush him off the 3-point line.”
Cincinnati responded with three baskets in a minute and never lost the lead again.
The Bearcats return home for their next three games, including a matchup Wednesday with cross-town rival Xavier. Last year’s loss at Xavier is remembered for a brawl that resulted in four players from each team getting suspensions.
“The past is the past,” Kilpatrick said. “It will be a great game.”
Added Wright: “This game is what we make it. We not looking at this game like it’s a rivalry. We’re looking at it like it’s a game in the way of our national championship where we’re trying to go.”