Without Gates, Cincinnati turns to its shooters — and thrives

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Cincinnati center Yancy Gates sat out the first of a six-game suspension during Wednesday’s win against Wright State.

Given how the Bearcats shot the ball with a three-guard lineup, Gates might not need to hurry back.

Cincinnati (6-3) was 14 of 32 from beyond the arc, by far their most attempts and makes this season and more than double their average attempts a game entering the night. That 44 percent accuracy is 10 points higher than its season average as well. Wright State’s hardly a defensive dynamo, but that’s a significant development.

For a team playing its first game since an ugly brawl against cross-town rival Xavier earned Gates and three other Bearcats suspensions, this was quite a night. And one that blessedly featured only basketball.

“They were so locked in, they were ready to show people that they were gonna be better for this,” coach Mick Cronin told ESPN afterward.

“My guys stepped up tonight and made my job look real easy.”

Click here for more on the Cincinnati-Xavier brawl

The primary benefactor from Gates’ absence was sophomore Sean Kilpatrick, who scored a game-high 20 points and was 6 of 12 from deep. Kilpatrick, a 6-4sophomore who was expected to make a big jump in overall production this season, wasn’t listed as one of the three starting guards, which gives the Bearcats a far smaller, quicker and potentially better offensive team.

(However, Cincinnati didn’t push the pace against Wright State, logging right around 60 possessions, below its season average. That’s the pace Wright State wanted.)

If that’s one of the things that emerges from this whole mess, that’s not a bad thing.

Perhaps Gates – always one of college basketball’s more perplexing talents, both for his effort and inability to dominate – could return as an option off the bench, depending on the Bearcats’ needs against various Big East teams. Rather than be locked into a deliberate, defensive style, Cronin could tweak his lineups as needed.

After all, Cincinnati is still a team capable of making the Sweet 16. At this point, that’d be a dream season.

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