Cincinnati Bearcats

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No. 25 Cincinnati sends Mississippi State to 1st loss 65-50

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HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. (AP) — No. 25 Cincinnati had plummeted to the fringe of the rankings and needed a confidence boost. The Bearcats got it against a previously unbeaten team.

Jacob Evans III had 24 points and eight rebounds as Cincinnati recovered from its back-to-back losses and handed Mississippi State its first defeat, 65-50 on Tuesday night.

The Bearcats (8-2) were coming off losses to crosstown rival Xavier and Florida that dropped them from No. 11. They ended the slump with a solid defensive showing against the Southeastern Conference’s last unbeaten team, blocking 11 shots.

“We needed to get this win for us to build our confidence and get this thing back on track,” Evans said.

Mississippi State (8-1) was off to its best start since 2003-04. The Bulldogs struggled to make shots in their first game against a ranked team. They missed 10 straight in the first half and 14 in a row in the second as Cincinnati blew open a close game.

“I think we took a multitude of things away from them,” said Kyle Washington, who added 16 points. “We knew what we wanted to do on defense. We were locked in on how they played well as a team. We just wanted to take all of that away.”

Aric Holman matched his career high with 18 points and had 10 rebounds for Mississippi State, which shot a season-low 30 percent from the field. The Bulldogs weren’t ready for Cincinnati’s defense.

“We lost the game tonight because of our inability to attack that zone,” coach Ben Howland said. “We were standing way too much, not enough ball movement, not enough cutting and getting the ball inside.”

Cincinnati has won 31 straight home games , the longest streak in the nation. The Bearcats are playing this season at BB&T Arena at Northern Kentucky University while their on-campus arena is renovated. They went 18-0 at Fifth Third Arena last season.

BIG PICTURE

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs can’t get that breakthrough win against a ranked team. They have dropped 18 in a row against teams in the Top 25. Their last such win was 67-57 over Arizona on Nov. 18, 2011.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats’ offense was stymied during the losses to Xavier and Florida. Cincinnati shot 41 percent from the field against Mississippi State but scored 22 points off 14 Bulldogs turnovers.

“This was a defensive victory, no question about it,” coach Mick Cronin said. “We’re still searching on offense a little bit at times.”

DRY SPELLS

Mississippi State went nearly 7 minutes without a field goal in the first half, managing only one free throw, as Cincinnati took control. The Bulldogs’ 14 straight misses in the second half helped Cincinnati pull ahead by 19 points. The Bulldogs shot 45 percent or better in their eight wins, including four games at 50 percent or better.

FIRST TRIP

It was the first road game for Mississippi State, which was picked to finish 12th in the SEC preseason poll. Howland figured it will help get the Bulldogs ready for conference play.

“Cincinnati is like an upper-echelon SEC team, so it’s very similar,” Howland said.

QUOTE OF THE GAME

Cronin on the back-to-back losses: “I was just concerned about the guys’ confidence level. It’s hard to shield them from the social media and the outside world. Young people live in that world, and I’m sure the sky was falling in that world because we lost a few games.”

UP NEXT

Mississippi State plays at UT Martin on Saturday.

Cincinnati plays UCLA at Pauley Pavilion on Saturday, a rematch against the team that knocked the Bearcats out of the NCAA Tournament 79-67 in the second round last season.

Cincinnati lands 2018 point guard

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Cincinnati kicked off its Class of 2018 with a verbal pledge from a point guard from the west coast.

Logan Johnson, the brother of Miami Heat guard Tyler Johnson, announced his commitment to the Bearcats on Twitter on Thursday afternoon.

The 6-foot-2 floor general had taken an official visit to campus at the beginning of this month. He had scheduled official visits to Saint Mary’s and UC Santa Barbara for later this month. He held nearly a dozen offers from west coast programs, including several from the Mountain West schools.

Johnson is listed as the No. 130 overall recruit in the class, according to Rivals. While Rivals lists him as a three-star prospect, Scout rates him as a four-star recruit. According to Rivals’ National Basketball Analyst Eric Bossi, Johnson’s stock rose following strong play during the July live recruiting period.

Although, his most notable performance came during April when he and his Tyler Johnson Elite team got the better of LaMelo Ball and the Big Ballers.

When Johnson reaches campus in the fall of 2018, he’ll one of three point guards on the roster, playing behind transfer Cane Broome and Justin Jenifer. Both will exhaust their eligibility at the conclusion of the 2018-19 season.

AAC plan men’s basketball tourney at new Texas arena in ’20

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FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The American Athletic Conference will hold its men’s basketball tournament in a new arena in North Texas in 2020.

AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco announced Wednesday that Dickies Arena in Fort Worth has been selected to host the tournament for three years, starting in March 2020. That is only four months after the facility is scheduled to open.

On the same day of a groundbreaking ceremony for the 14,000-seat arena last April, the NCAA announced that first- and second-round games of the 2022 NCAA men’s basketball tournament would be held there. The NCAA women’s gymnastics championships are scheduled there from 2020-22.

The closest AAC school to the new arena is SMU, with its campus in Dallas about 40 miles away.

Orlando will host the 2018 AAC tournament, which moves to Memphis in 2019.

Four takeaways from No. 19 Cincinnati’s win over No. 24 Xavier

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Trevon Blueitt’s 40-point performance wasn’t enough for Xavier as No. 24 Xavier fell at No. 19 Cincinnati, 86-78, on Thursday night at Fifth Third Arena.

The Bearcats dominated the boards, scoring 30 second-chance points, got 21 points from Jacob Evans and 16 from Troy Caupain.

Blueitt got to 40 points on just 15 shots. J.P. Macura, with 13 points, was the only other Musketeer to score in double figures.

Cincinnati was just 18 of 37 from the free-throw line line Xavier went 19 of 23.

Here are four things to know following the Crosstown Shootout:

1. Cincinnati was uncanny on the glass: The Bearcats missed 30 shots on the night, but 19 times after one of those clanks, Cincinnati kept possession courtesy of an offensive rebound. That’s an offensive rebounding percentage of 63.3. Which is absurd. What’s even more astonishing is that Xavier is one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the country, ranking third nationally in defensive rebounding percentage. It’s crazy that Cincy, which isn’t even that great of an offensive rebounding team typically, was able to totally dominate the glass like that. The 30 second-chance points they were able to score won them the game.

 

2. Trevon Blueitt is a baaaaaaad man: Blueitt’s entire game was phenomenal but his first half was especially nuts. He went 8 of 8 from the field and canned six 3-pointers to score 26 points (again, on eight shots) in 20 minutes. It was a sight to behold, especially in a rivalry of this magnitude, and on the road no less. He finished 12 of 15 from the floor to get his 40. X may have not come away with a victory, but Blueitt’s performance is probably what is going to get talked about for years when people discuss this game.

 

3. The Bearcats have it rolling: Cincinnati has now won 11-straight games, a streak that now includes wins over Xavier, Houston and SMU. The Bearcats are now 17-2 on the season with blemishes only coming to Butler and Rhode Island, both of which came away from home. The strength of schedule obviously isn’t going to be elite in the AAC, but they’ve got a chance to really rack up a gaudy win total. They get Houston at home later this year and still have two bouts with Central Florida still on the docket, but it’s not out of the question that they’ll be sitting on 30-plus wins come Selection Sunday

 

4. It’s been a tough two weeks for Xavier: The  Musketeers have now lost four of their last five games, with a home win over Georgetown the only respite from the losing. While that can’t be a lot of fun for Chris Mack and his crew, it’s hard to chalk it up to anything other than the schedule with back-to-back road games against Villanova and Butler followed by Creighton at home (then Georgetown) and the Crosstown Shootout in their rivals’ gym.

Maybe you’d have picked them to beat the Bluejays at home, but otherwise this stretch went about as anyone would predict. While it’s certainly not ideal, this little skid really isn’t an indictment of who Xavier is, but just a testament to who they play.

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

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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.