Cincinnati Bearcats

Cincinnati guard Jacob Evans (1) celebrates a three point shot against Marshall in overtime of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016, in Cincinnati. Cincinnati won the game 93-91. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)
AP Photo/Gary Landers

Video: No. 24 Cincinnati wins in final second of OT

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Cincinnati took the old adage of “it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” pretty seriously Thursday.

The 24th-ranked Bearcats got the game-winning bucket with 0.7 seconds remaining in overtime from Troy Caupain to defeat Marshall, 93-91, after a first half in which the Thundering Herd lit up the Cincy defense.

Cincinnati was a 21-point favorite against the Thundering Herd, but Marshall made 14 first-half 3-pointers to take a 12-point lead into halftime after scoring 50 points. The Bearcats have seven games this year where opponents haven’t been able to escape the 50s in an entire 40 minutes (or 45 in a 55-54 OT win over Iowa State).

Thing corrected themselves in the second half as Marshall was able to only make three shots from distance in the final 25 minutes.

The Bearcats got huge efforts from Garry Clark and Jacob Evans. Clark was 12 of 15 from the field for 26 points while Evans added 25 on 9 of 15 shooting.

It’s hard to chalk up the night anything other than tough luck for the Bearcats as they’ve been pretty stingy all season in 3-point defense. They don’t give up a big percentage or many attempts from deep. Still, struggling against Marshall at home is a reminder that Cincinnati hasn’t exactly accomplished a ton during the non-conference schedule. They’ve got that win at Iowa State, something few teams can claim in recent years, but that’s their only notable win, unless beating Penn State on a neutral floor moves the needle for you.

Cincinnati may be the class of the AAC, which starts play next week, but their body of work to this point doesn’t give them the look of an overwhelming favorite.

No. 25 Cincinnati beats Fairleigh Dickinson 119-68

SPOKANE, WA - MARCH 18:  Head coach Mick Cronin of the Cincinnati Bearcats reacts against the Saint Joseph's Hawks in the first half during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena on March 18, 2016 in Spokane, Washington.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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CINCINNATI (AP) Mick Cronin suspected his Cincinnati Bearcats could be “devastating” when they’re on target with their shots.

They proved him correct Saturday.

Senior Kevin Johnson scored a career-high 18 points and No. 25 Cincinnati shot a blistering 64.7 percent from the field while rolling to the highest-scoring game of Cronin’s 11-year career as the Bearcats coach, 119-68 over Fairleigh Dickinson.

Johnson was surprised at the rout.

“They’re a good team,” he said of the Knights, an NCAA Tournament First Four team last season. “They were picked to win their conference (in a coaches’ poll) and they have two all-league players. We try not to underestimate any opponent. Really, it’s not about them. It’s more about us. We go into games trying to smother opponents. It was awesome. I felt like we just got into a good rhythm, offensively and defensively.”

Jacob Evans added 17 points and five other Bearcats reached double figures as Cincinnati (9-2) bettered it previous season-high margin of victory for the second straight game, a 38-point romp over Texas Southern on Tuesday.

“I’ve felt like if Jacob and Kevin can get going from the perimeter, we had a chance to get better,” Cronin said. “We can be a devastating team when we shoot the ball.”

Stephan Jiggetts scored 24 points to lead the Knights (2-9), who have lost seven straight and eight of nine. They committed 22 turnovers while connecting on just 20 field goals.

“I talked to Mick and his staff after the game and just kiddingly they said they don’t even shoot that well in practice, so hats off,” FDU coach Greg Herenda said. “Cincinnati has a really, really good team. Obviously today they were firing on all cylinders. They shot it, they shared it, they guarded. They were just too big and too good for us today.”

Johnson also had three steals, leading a Cincinnati defense that produced 13 takeaways. The Bearcats finished with more than 50 deflections, Cronin said, at least 10 more than the goal of 40 they take into every game.

“We’ve never lost when we get 40 deflections,” Cronin said..

Johnson matched his career high by halftime, scoring 15 points as the Bearcats built a 41-point lead before settling for a 65-26 halftime advantage. Evans also scored 15 points in the first half.

That was the most points for Cincinnati in any half since scoring 68 in the first half against DePaul on Feb. 5, 1998.

Cincinnati took the lead for good after Mike Holloway was whistled for a flagrant foul with 17:02 left in the first half. Evans made two free throws and Troy Caupain scored to complete a four-point possession that snapped a 6-6 tie.

BIG PICTURE

Fairleigh Dickinson: The Knights committed 15 first-half turnovers, three shy of matching their season high, allowing Cincinnati to build a 22-5 advantage in points off turnovers.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats shot 67.6 percent from the field (23 of 34), including 6 of 11 from 3-point range while scoring 65 points in the first half, just four shy of tying the program record for first-half points, set against North Texas State in the 1957-58 during the Oscar Robertson era.

PILING UP

Cincinnati’s 119 points set a record for a team in the American Athletic Conference, which is in its fourth season and is the fifth-highest total in program history.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Cincinnati will likely move up after winning two games by big scores this week, especially after No. 21 Notre Dame lost 86-81 to 15th-ranked Purdue on Saturday.

UP NEXT

After three straight road games, Fairleigh Dickinson returns home to play a Northeast Conference game on Dec. 29 against Saint Francis (Pa.).

Cincinnati remains home to face Marshall on Thursday before traveling to Philadelphia on Dec. 28 for its American Athletic Conference opener against Temple.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25.

College Basketball Talk Top 25: Duke is back in the No. 1 spot

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 10: Grayson Allen #3 of the Duke Blue Devils watches as he sinks a 3-point shot against the UNLV Rebels during their game at T-Mobile Arena on December 10, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Duke won 94-45. (Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images)
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I made some changes in my top 25 this week, and I did it for one reason and one reason only: I think Duke is the best team in college basketball.

And I get it. I might be the only one that ranks Duke No. 1 this week, because there are so many other teams with valid argument to be ranked above Duke.

  • Villanova was No. 1 last week and all they did was beat a city rival and then knock off No. 21 Notre Dame.
  • Kansas has already beaten Duke this season on a neutral court.
  • UCLA owns the most impressive win of the season, picking off Kentucky in Rupp Arena. Duke has beaten Florida, Rhode Island and Michigan State and played Kansas tough.
  • Baylor has the best résumé of anyone to date.

But these rankings are supposed to be used to determine who is the best team in the country, right?

RANKINGS: AP Poll | Coaches Poll | NBC Sports Top 25

And I think that Duke is the best team in college basketball. We all had them there in the preseason, before all of the injuries. Now that they’re getting back to full strength, we’re just going to ignore that fact because Frank Mason II hit a jumper and Villanova hasn’t given us a reason to drop them?

I guess I understand the logic, but it just seems silly to rank someone else No. 1 when you don’t think they’re the best team in the country.

Anyway, here is the NBCSports.com Top 25:

RELATED: Player of the Week | Team of the Week | Five Things We Learned

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1. Duke (10-1, Last Week: 4)
2. Villanova (10-0, 1)
3. UCLA (10-0, 2)
4. Kansas (9-1, 3)
5. Kentucky (9-1, 5)
6. North Carolina (10-1, 6)
7. Gonzaga (10-0, 7)
8. Baylor (8-0, 8)
9. Creighton (10-0, 9)
10. Indiana (8-1, 10)
11. Wisconsin (9-2, 11)
12. Louisville (9-1, 12)
13. West Virginia (8-1, 15)
14. Purdue (8-2, 14)
15. South Carolina (8-0, 17)
16. Xavier (8-2, 13)
17. Saint Mary’s (7-1, 14)
18. Virginia (8-1, 18)
19. Butler (9-1, 19)
20. USC (9-0, 21)
21. Notre Dame (9-1, 24)
22. Cincinnati (7-2, 19)
23. Oregon (9-2, NR)
24. Arizona (8-2, NR)
25. Texas A&M (7-2, NR)

DROPPED OUT: No. 21 Florida, No. 23 Syracuse, No. 25 Iowa State
NEW ADDITIONS: No. 23 Oregon, No. 24 Arizona, No. 25 Texas A&M

No. 22 Cincinnati’s loss to No. 16 Butler shines light on AAC’s struggles

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 10: Head coach Mick Cronin of the Cincinnati Bearcats reacts against the Butler Bulldogs in the first half of the game at Hinkle Fieldhouse on December 10, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Kelan Martin scored 20 points and Andrew Chrabascz added 12 points, four boards and five assists as No. 16 Butler bounced back from a tough loss at Indiana State to beat No. 22 Cincinnati, 75-65.

The Bulldogs had been undefeated on the season prior to the loss to the Sycamores, but their ranking was built on the fact that they had beaten Arizona, who was No. 8 at the time, as well as a trio of high-major programs that look destined for the NIT.

Cincinnati probably isn’t destined for the NIT. Their top 25 ranking is justified, which is what makes this win valuable. Quality non-conference wins matter, and this is just one of a handful of good wins for what has proven to be one of the most top-heavy conferences in the country. Villanova, Creighton, Xavier and Butler all look capable of reaching the Sweet 16 this season.

The opposite is true for Cincinnati, who look like the flag-bearer in a conference that isn’t really all that good. They’re the best team in the AAC this season, but that’s a conference that has consistently disappointed this year. SMU, Temple and UConn have all struggled more than we expected them to. Tulsa and Memphis are in rebuilding mode. Houston was supposed to be good this season but they’ve yet to live up to the preseason hype.

Think about it like this: The only team in the AAC without multiple losses on the season is now UCF. That’s … not ideal, and it’s going to be interesting to see just how many bids the league is able to generate.

Think about it. Temple has beaten West Virginia and Florida State while losing to New Hampshire and UMass. SMU’s best win is either Pitt or TCU, both of whom are borderline tournament teams. UConn beat Syracuse but has some atrocious losses on their resume. Houston beat Rhode Island but lost to Arkansas and LSU. Memphis beat Iowa, but Iowa’s not all that good. UCF’s best win is … Mississippi State?

Cincinnati’s lone quality win is at Iowa State, who is about to drop out of the top 25.

Cobb scores 20, No. 23 Cincinnati beats Norfolk State 75-59

Farad Cobb
Associated Press
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CINCINNATI (AP) Farad Cobb matched his season high with 20 points, Gary Clark added 19 and No. 23 Cincinnati recovered from its loss to crosstown rival Xavier by beating Norfolk State 75-59 on Tuesday night.

The Bearcats (9-2) had dropped two of three, including a home-court loss to Butler and a 65-55 defeat at No. 10 Xavier on Saturday. They were sloppy in the first half before pulling away.

D’Shon Taylor had 14 points for Norfolk State (4-6), which trailed by only four points late in the first half.

Norfolk State’s Jeff Short came into the game averaging 18.7 points in the last six games, but had a tough time finding shots against one of the country’s toughest defenses. He missed all four of his shots in the first half and his first one in the second half before hitting a 3-pointer. He finished with five points on 1-of-10 shooting.

The Bearcats are holding opponents to 59 points per game, the 10th-fewest in the nation.

The Spartans rely on the 3-pointer – they came in shooting 45.2 percent from beyond the arc – but missed 12 of their first 14 attempts and finished 7 of 24.

Cincinnati opened with a 15-0 run, scoring on each of its first five possessions. The only flaw was Octavius Ellis missing a showy dunk attempt on a fast-break alley-oop play. The Spartans had a shot clock violation on their opening possession and missed their first seven shots.

Cincinnati missed four consecutive free throws and seven of nine shots in one stretch of the first half, allowing Norfolk State to cut the lead to 23-15.

Turnovers were a problem in Cincinnati’s loss at Xavier on Saturday, and the Bearcats lost the ball four times during a four-minute span late it the first half on Tuesday. The crowd booed when Charles Oliver’s fast-break layup cut it to 30-26 with 1:30 left in the half. The Bearcats led 34-26 at the break.

Clark had three baskets during a 9-2 run that opened the second half and built the lead to 16 points. The lead was 61-35 midway through the half.

TIP-INS

Norfolk State: The Spartans have made as many as 14 3-pointers – a school record – and as few as two in games this season.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats are 19-0 all-time against teams from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

UP NEXT

Norfolk State: The Spartans will play the fourth of eight straight road games at Evansville on Thursday.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats play at VCU on Saturday.

Follow Joe Kay on Twitter: http://twitter.com/apjoekay

LATE NIGHT SNACKS: Monmouth picks up another quality win

Brandon Ingram
Associated Press
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GAME OF THE DAY: Wisconsin 64, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 49

Ethan Happ and Bronson Koenig scored 15 points apiece as Wisconsin beat Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 64-49. The Islanders shot 32.8 percent from the field and 4.-for-18 from three. But the drama came after the game, as head coach Bo Ryan announced that he’ll be retiring effective immediately. Associate head coach Greg Gard will take over in an interim role, essentially having four months to audition for the job full-time.

More on Ryan’s retirement can be read here.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

No. 7 Duke 99, Georgia Southern 65: Playing without the injured Amile Jefferson, the Blue Devils took care of business at home with Brandon Ingram leading the way. Ingram, now starting at the four with Jefferson out, tallied 26 points and 14 rebounds to lead the way for Duke. As a team the Blue Devils posted an offensive rebound percentage of 57.9 percent, converting 22 offensive boards into 27 second-chance points. Ingram was one of five Blue Devils to score in double figures, with Grayson Allen added 18 points and Derryck Thornton Jr. 15.

Monmouth 83, Georgetown 68: King Rice’s Hawks shot 10-for-20 from three and limited the Hoyas to 32.8 percent shooting as they beat another power conference opponent. Je’lon Hornbeak led five Monmouth players in double figures with 18 points, and Monmouth now has wins over UCLA, Notre Dame, USC and Georgetown with the UCLA and Georgetown wins coming on the road.

More about this game can be read here.

Oregon 78, UC Irvine 63: Elgin Cook scored 26 points as the Ducks took care of the preseason favorite to win the Big West. Cook was one of five Oregon players to score in double figures, but it was their defense that made the difference. UC Irvine committed 22 turnovers, with Oregon turning those mistakes into 28 points. Just as important for Oregon: Dwayne Benjamin and Tyler Dorsey both played. Benjamin rolled his ankle in the loss at Boise State, and a knee injury sidelined Dorsey for the last two games. Now, they wait for Dylan Ennis to get completely healthy.

STARRED

Caris LeVert, Michigan: LeVert not only surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his career but he also posted a triple-double in the Wolverines’ 77-62 win over Northern Kentucky. Thirteen points, ten rebounds and ten assists.

Brandon Ingram, Duke: Starting at the four in place of the injured Amile Jefferson, Ingram finished the 99-65 win over Georgia Southern with 26 points and 14 rebounds.

Cameron Ridley, Texas: The senior center accounted for 19 points, 11 rebounds and nine blocks in the Longhorns’ win over Appalachian State.

STRUGGLED

Bradley Hayes, Georgetown: One of the most improved players in the Big East, Hayes struggled in the Hoyas’ loss to Monmouth. He grabbed ten rebounds but scored just one point, shooting 0-for-4 from the field.

Appalachian State from two: The Mountaineers shot 12-for-20 from three in their 67-55 loss at Texas. Why’d they score just 55 points? They shot 6-for-40 inside of the arc (Texas blocked 15 shots).

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • Playing without Thomas Welsh (illness) and Prince Ali (bone bruise in knee), No. 22 UCLA held off Louisiana-Lafayette 89-80. Bryce Alford led the way with 27 points, six rebounds and seven assists. Shawn Long paced the visitors with 26 points and 16 boards.
  • No. 23 Cincinnati rebounded from its loss at No. 10 Xavier over the weekend by beating Norfolk State, 75-59. Farad Cobb scored 20 points and Gary Clark added 19 and seven rebounds for the Bearcats.

OTHER NOTABLE OUTCOMES

  • Ole Miss picked up a solid home win, scoring 99 points in their 19-point win over Louisiana Tech. Stefan Moody scored 29 points and Rasheed Brooks added 20 for the Rebels, who shot nearly 57 percent from the field.
  • Also of note in Michigan’s win over Northern Kentucky was the return of point guard Derrick Walton Jr. After missing the last three games with an ankle injury, Walton scored 16 points against NKU.
  • South Carolina moved to 9-0 on the season with a 79-54 win over Drexel. The Dragons trailed by four at the half, but making just one of their first 18 shots in the second half coincided with the Gamecocks taking control of the game. P.J. Dozier scored 16 points and Sindarius Thornwell 13 for South Carolina.
  • Alex Olah scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and Tre Demps added 18 points as Northwestern rolled to a 78-48 win over Mississippi Valley State. The Wildcats are now 9-1 on the season.
  • Memphis survived a tough test from Southern, winning 72-67. K.J. Lawson and Trahson Burrell led a balanced offense with 16 and 15 points, respectively. Southern’s Jared Sam led all scorers with 26 points and also grabbed 12 rebounds.
  • In its first game since beating North Carolina over the weekend, Texas picked up a 12-point win over Appalachian State (67-55). Cameron Ridley finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds for the Longhorns, who blocked 15 shots as a team.
  • Tied with VCU at 27 at halftime, Georgia Tech outscored the Rams 50-37 in the second half as they won 77-64 in Atlanta. Marcus Georges-Hunt scored 20 points for the Yellow Jackets, who are now 7-2.
  • Oklahoma State beat Longwood 73-55 in a game that was delayed 43 minutes due to electrical issues at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Leyton Hammonds scored a career-high 22 points in the win.
  • Marcus Allen scored 17 points and Dorian Pickens 16 as Stanford took care of DePaul, 79-60. The Cardinal shot 10-for-19 from three and outscored the Blue Demons 19-4 from the foul line.