No. 11 Cincinnati beats UALR 87-53
With a young roster and a freshman point guard, Arkansas-Little
Rock knew it could have a tough time just getting through No. 11
Cincinnati’s full-court pressure.
Too often, the Trojans never even made it to midcourt.
The Bearcats set a school record with 23 steals Thursday night
in an 87-53 victory that came down to the Trojans’ inability to
hold onto the ball. Coach Steve Shields repeatedly called timeouts
to try to settle his team, without success.
The Trojans fell to 0-8 against Top 25 teams during his 10
seasons at Arkansas-Little Rock.
”I knew coming in we had to have poise and toughness with the
ball,” Shields said. ”I thought Cincinnati did a good job of
taking us out of what we wanted to do offensively and forced us to
play at a pace we didn’t want to play at.”
Sean Kilpatrick scored 10 of his 18 points in the second half,
and the unbeaten Bearcats ran away with it by stealing the ball and
heading for a layup or dunk.
”We’re proud, but that’s expected,” Kilpatrick said. ”That’s
something we have to keep doing every game and continue to get
better at. I’m not sitting here saying I’m satisfied with it. I
appreciate it, but we’ve got to keep doing it every night.”
The Bearcats (8-0) have become one of the nation’s top defensive
teams while starting with eight straight wins for the 15th time in
school history. It’s the second time in three seasons that they’re
Playing with their highest ranking since they were No. 11 at end
of 2003-04, the Bearcats threw the ball away early, prompting coach
Mick Cronin to substitute for all five starters. Cincinnati was
coming off attention-getting wins over Iowa State and Oregon
followed by a 58-56 victory over Alabama on Cashmere Wright’s
fadeaway at the buzzer on Saturday.
”We’ve still got to get better with our offensive execution at
times,” Cronin said. ”We’re careless with the ball, taking
ill-advised shots at times.”
Despite their early sloppiness, the Bearcats quickly wore down
the Trojans (7-4), who had a season-high 32 turnovers, 18 in the
opening half alone. Cincinnati’s steals topped the previous school
record by three.
The teams combined for 54 field goals and 49 turnovers. Cheikh
Mbodj had 12 points and seven rebounds for Cincinnati, which
finished with four players in double figures. Shaquille Thomas had
the record-setting 21st steal and a dunk with 6:11 to go.
Will Neighbour, Ben Dillard and James White scored 10 apiece for
The Trojans have started freshman John Gillon at point guard the
last nine games. He struggled against the unrelenting pressure,
turning the ball over eight times. Junior shooting guard Leroy
Isler had seven turnovers.
”We had 32 turnovers, which is unheard of,” Shields said. ”We
didn’t have the poise and toughness that we needed.”
The Bearcats could sense the Trojans were getting flustered
during the first half because they couldn’t get through the
”When they’re rattled, it’s better for us because they start
turning the ball over,” Kilpatrick said. ”(You see) their facial
expressions. They can’t get it over the half-court mark. Then, most
importantly, it’s the coach. If you can look at the coach and he’s
really frustrated, that’s the last thing you want as a
Playing against a badly overmatched opponent for the first time
in the last four games, the Bearcats lacked focus at the outset,
throwing the ball away five times before the 15:55 mark. Cronin
benched all of his starters. At one point, he yelled at one of his
players on the court: ”What don’t you understand?”
The lineup change got their attention. Cincinnati had only two
more turnovers the rest of the half while pulling away to a 42-17
lead. The Bearcats extended their pressure defense full-court and
got the Trojans so flustered that they repeatedly threw the ball
away on fast-break chances.
Cincinnati’s offense finally got going when JaQuon Parker
returned and hit two 3s – Cincinnati’s first of the game – during a
12-point run that built the lead to 25-8.
The Trojans had trouble getting the ball across midcourt in the
closing minutes of the half, fueling another surge. Arkansas-Little
Rock had 18 turnovers and was 8 of 25 from the field in the
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