Jacksonville State vs Cincinnati

Cincy uses big first half to sink Jacksonville State

CBSSports.com wire reports

CINCINNATI -- Up by 27 points early in the second half, Cincinnati figured it had this one put away. The 20th-ranked Bearcats got a surprise, and a reminder.

Dion Dixon scored 16 of his 20 points in the first half, shooting over Jacksonville State's undersized zone defense, and Cincinnati weathered a sluggish second half for a 73-59 victory Tuesday night.

Cincinnati (2-0) opened with a 26-9 run behind Dixon's 3-point shooting. The Bearcats led by 27 early in the second half, then eased up and let Jacksonville State (1-2) take the momentum and stick around.

"Once they saw we were going to win, that's enough for them," coach Mick Cronin said. "And I don't want that to be the case."

Cronin left Dixon on the floor for the full 40 minutes, while center Yancy Gates played 35 and point guard Cashmere Wright 33. Unhappy with their effort, Cronin left his key players in the game to teach them a lesson.

"I was unhappy with some guys' intensity," Cronin said. "The last thing I was going to do was call time out and take them out of the game. I was going to let them play through it."

The first-half cushion was enough for the win. Dixon finished 4 of 8 behind the arc, where the Bearcats went 8 of 12 overall. Wright had 23 points.

Neither guard was very happy with another statistic -- five turnovers apiece. Cincinnati had 20 overall.

"I think we did horrible, personally," Wright said. "We've got to figure out what's wrong and correct it before the next game because we can't keep playing like that and continue to win."

Jacksonville State (1-2) got 16 points apiece from Brian Williams and Mason Leggett. The Gamecocks have only one player as tall as 6-foot-7 and had to pack in a zone defense to keep up. Dixon's early 3-point shooting ruined that strategy.

"We really thought we needed to surround Gates and not let him be an anchor in the paint," coach James Green said. "And I thought we did a pretty good job of that. They made so many shots on the perimeter that it made us get out of our game plan."

Gates, who had a double-double in the opener, finished with eight points on 3-of-10 shooting with nine rebounds.

The Bearcats were coming off a 65-40 win over Alabama State on Sunday night that highlighted their defense. They gave up only 14 points in the first half, and the 40 overall were the third-fewest allowed in Cronin's six seasons.

They were much more lax against Jacksonville State. After pulling ahead 48-21 early in the second half, they allowed the Gamecocks to go on a 15-1 run. The Bearcats went 6 minutes, 8 seconds without scoring, a drought ended by Gates' dunk.

Stephen Hall's 3-pointer cut it to 67-57 with 1:50 left, the closest the Gamecocks could get.

Cincinnati was ranked in the preseason poll for the first time since 2003. The Bearcats reached the NCAA tournament in March for the first time since 2005 and are expecting to get back there again with their deepest team under Cronin.

They're still learning how to deal with success. Cronin remained calm on the sideline while watching his team struggle in the second half.

"I've been trying to save some of my intensity," he said. "It's a long year. There comes a point where you have to let guys grow up a little bit. They've got to take ownership in what they're doing."

Jacksonville State is coming off a 5-25 season that led to big changes. The Gamecocks returned only four players, including lone senior Hall. The roster includes seven transfers and four freshmen.

Their biggest challenge was up front. Jacksonville State has only four players as tall as 6-foot-6 and had to play zone defense to give itself a chance. Dixon's outside shooting helped the Bearcats take control right away. He hit three 3s in the opening 26-9 spurt, while the Gamecocks were only 4 of 16 from the field with five turnovers during that stretch.

Dixon hit four 3s in the first half, all from the right wing, all of them with plenty of room to shoot.

"I came in a little early and got some shots," said Dixon, who missed two of his three shots from behind the arc in the opener. "That helped me make some shots early. I was missing shots; I was kind of disappointed in myself. I wanted to make sure that didn't happen again."

Gates ended the half with a shot that pleased the crowd of 4,542, hitting a 3 from the right wing at the buzzer for the Bearcats' biggest lead to that point.

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
Dion Dixon (20 points) and the Bearcats open a 26-9 run in the first half and lead by 27 early in the second half. (AP)
Dion Dixon (20 points) and the Bearcats open a 26-9 run in the first half and lead by 27 early in the second half. (AP)
Jacksonville State (1-2)213859
Cincinnati #20 (2-0) «442973
JAXST:B. Williams 16 Pts
JAXST:S. Hall 5 Reb
JAXST:B. Williams 3 Ast
CIN:C. Wright 23 Pts
CIN:D. Dixon 9 Reb
CIN:Y. Gates 4 Ast

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Jacksonville StateCincinnati
Mason Leggett
Cashmere Wright
Jacksonville State Gamecocks
S. Hall, F334-82-250112
B. Williams, G337-151-233316
M. Leggett, G338-150-042216
D. Waiters, G191-20-02302
R. Mafra, F170-30-01020
T. Gaines, F211-86-85118
D. Rackley, G200-50-02010
N. Cook, F91-20-01012
G. White, G70-10-01000
F. Bougher, G-F61-21-22003
R. Boggs, G20-10-00000
T. Turner, FDid Not Play
J. Merit, GDid Not Play
C. Deanes, GDid Not Play
I. Fisher, GDid Not Play
B. Klaus, GDid Not Play
Totals 23-6210-142691159
Cincinnati Bearcats
D. Dixon, G407-162-290020
Y. Gates, F353-101-19418
C. Wright, G339-143-464323
S. Kilpatrick, G333-72-23209
J. Jackson, F292-33-59357
J. Sanders, F123-40-01106
K. Gaines, C80-10-02000
O. Ellis, F50-10-00100
G. Guyn, G50-00-00230
A. Eppensteiner, GDid Not Play
J. Parker, GDid Not Play
J. Davis, GDid Not Play
C. Mbodj, CDid Not Play
S. Thomas, FDid Not Play
Totals 27-5611-1439171273
Ohio Valley
EastConf. W-LTot. W-LRPI Rank
Morehead St.10-614-16200
Jax. State9-720-15151
Tenn. St.8-817-13161
Tenn. Tech8-812-20277
Eastern Ky.5-1112-19248
WestConf. W-LTot. W-LRPI Rank
UT Martin10-622-13164
SE Missouri St.9-715-18274
Murray St.8-816-17230
Austin Peay7-911-19261
Eastern Ill.6-1014-15265

Conference USA
TeamConf. W-LTot. W-LRPI Rank
Middle Tenn.17-131-535
La. Tech14-423-10117
Old Dominion12-619-12136
Western Ky.9-915-17226
UT-San Antonio8-1014-19264
So. Miss6-129-22331
North Texas2-168-22339
Other games
Belmont 81 Final
Memphis 97
SDSU 67 Final
Baylor 77
IPFW 63 Final
XAV 86
Mich St 69 Final
ALB 74 Final
Syracuse 98
BUCK 68 Final
Florida 74 Final
Ohio St 81
Kansas 65 Final
Kentucky 75
Aus Peay 55 Final
California 72