No. 12 Cincinnati presses Western Carolina for 102-51 win
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. (AP) - Forward Kyle Washington spotted a leftover box of pizza in the interview room following his postgame media session. He decided to make one more takeaway, grabbing the box and heading for the exit.
"Y'all are watching me?" he said, pretending to sneak away. "Y'all are going to watch me walk right out the door."
Cold pizza wasn't the only thing the Bearcats made off with on a night when they turned up the defense.
Sophomore Jarron Cumberland scored 20 points for the second time in his career, and Cincinnati's full-court pressure forced 22 turnovers Monday night, setting up a 102-51 victory over Western Carolina.
"I'm happy with way we defended," coach Mick Cronin said. "We did a good job of staying focused and not looking at the scoreboard and maintaining our defense and our principles."
Cincinnati (2-0) won its 28th straight home game — a streak that spans two arenas — with the type of defense that's been the program's hallmark. The Bearcats allowed 77 points during an opening win over Savannah State, making defense a point of emphasis.
Western Carolina (0-2) rarely got an uncontested shot and had trouble getting the ball up the court against Cincinnati's trapping defense, which had 11 steals — not including the pizza.
"They pressed us the entire game," coach Larry Hunter said. "They took us out of a lot of our execution. They just kept grinding us."
Washington added 14 points and seven rebounds for Cincinnati, which had four players in double figures. Matt Halvorsen led Western Carolina with 15 points.
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.
Western Carolina: The Catamounts had another rough start. On Friday at Clemson, they managed only 22 points during the first half of an 85-57 loss. Against the Bearcats, they missed 13 of their 16 shots and had eight turnovers while falling behind 30-10. They trailed 46-29 at the break.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats had 20 turnovers during their 107-77 opening win over Savannah State, the main area for improvement. They were better the second time around, turning it over 13 times.
The Bearcats have scored 100 points in back-to-back games for the first time since the 2011-12 season, when they beat Radford 101-70 and Arkansas-Pine Bluff 101-53 at Fifth Third Arena.
"It means something to us," point guard Cane Broome said. "It's giving everybody confidence to go out there and play well. Everyone feels they can contribute, so it's a good thing to score 100 points."
HOMECOMING ... SORT OF
Hunter — who spent the first 30 years of his coaching career in Ohio — has played at least Ohio team in all but one of his 13 seasons as head coach at Western Carolina. The Catamounts are 3-16 against Ohio teams under Hunter.
NEW STARTER AT POINT: Junior Justin Jenifer started at point guard for Cincinnati, a switch from the opener. Broome start against Savannah State — his first game since transferring from Sacred Heart — and had 17 points but also six turnovers. Against Western Carolina, Jenifer had one assist and didn't score in 18 minutes. Broome had 15 points, four assists and no turnovers in 20 minutes.
The Bearcats have drawn 6,610 and 7,051 fans for their first two games at BB&T Arena, a half-hour drive from their campus. The school has shuttles for students to make the trip across the Ohio River.
Western Carolina hosts Hiwassee College on Wednesday, the Catamounts' only home game in November.
Cincinnati hosts Coppin State on Thursday, its third straight home game to open the season before heading for the Cayman Islands Classic.