CINCINNATI (AP) — Cashmere Wright got ready to shoot a long 3 from the left wing, thought better and pulled the ball in. When the defender didn’t respond, he fired away and swished it.
Cincinnati’s senior point guard seems to be getting better at deciding when to shoot and when to pass, one of the things the 11th-ranked Bearcats want to see as they get ready for Big East play.
Wright set a career high with six 3s, and Sean Kilpatrick scored 19 of his 23 points in the first half Saturday, keeping Cincinnati unbeaten with a 92-60 victory over Maryland-Eastern Shore.
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The Bearcats (9-0) have opened the season with nine wins for the 10th time in school history. They also did it in during the 2010-11 season, winning their first 15 games.
One of their areas for improvement is the half-court offense. Wright ran it smoothly, getting 20 points with nine assists and only one turnover in 24 minutes.
“Right now, the coaches are giving me the green light to shoot,” Wright said. “If you feel you’re open, you take the shot. At the same time, I’m trying to walk the thin line between shooting the ball and not shooting so much. So it’s like an ongoing progression for me to get into the best of that.”
Coach Mick Cronin has been urging him to take charge.
“He’s a wonderful kid,” Cronin said. “He’s just too nice at times. He’s got to stay mentally focused at all times. I try to tell him great players aren’t the nicest people on the floor. You need to be arrogant out there and in command at all times.”
Cincinnati moved up to No. 11 this week — its highest ranking since it finished the 2003-04 season at No. 11 — off impressive wins over Iowa State, Oregon and Alabama. The Bearcats had back-to-back home games this week against overmatched teams.
They set a school record with 23 steals during an 87-53 win over Arkansas-Little Rock on Thursday, getting easy baskets in transition off 32 turnovers. This time, they hit open shots against a team that has lost all of its games by double-digits.
Kyree Jones led the Hawks (0-9) with 25 points. The Hawks shot 29.9 percent from the field.
They are one of the nation’s worst shooting teams, making only 34 percent from the field and 23.7 percent behind the arc. They missed 22 of their first 24 shots — six were swatted away — while falling behind 32-10.
One of the loudest ovations came during a timeout when the public address announcer told the crowd that Tommy Tuberville would be introduced as the next Cincinnati football coach on the basketball court after the game.
Cronin wasn’t happy with the Bearcats’ half-court offense during the win over Arkansas-Little Rock. The Bearcats had no problems finding open shots against a much smaller defense on Saturday.
“It was decent, but it can always get better,” Kilpatrick said. “We’re still finding little ways to score easy baskets. It’s something we’ve got to keep progressing on. Today it was a little better than the last one.”
Cincinnati opened with an 18-8 run that included 10 points by Kilpatrick. The Hawks went only 2 of 15 during the spurt and shot three air balls on one possession. Four of their shots were knocked away.
Wright hit a pair of long 3s against a defense that let him shoot away, and made his first five from beyond the arc overall. He had 15 points while Cincinnati pushed the lead to 32-10.
The Bearcats used 10 players in the first half — one more than Maryland-Eastern Shore had on its bench — while pulling ahead 52-23 at halftime. Kilpatrick had 19 points in the half on 8-of-11 shooting, and Wright made all five of his shots from behind the arc for 15 points.
“They killed us on the boards with their size, their strength, their athleticism,” Maryland-Eastern Shore coach Frankie Allen said, referring to the Bearcats’ 55-31 advantage. “We were playing really short-handed. We only had seven or eight guys available to even play.”
Kilpatrick and Wright started the second half resting on the bench. Forward Justin Jackson hit a 3 over the Hawks’ soft defense, leaving him 2 for 18 career on 3s. Wright got into the game and missed his first shot from behind the arc, ending his streak at five straight 3s. He finished 6 of 7.