By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The University of Cincinnati Bearcats will have to wait a while longer for their first real test of this season.
UC's Armein Kirkland passes the ball Wednesday night at Fifth Third Arena.|
(Tony Jones photo)
Expecting to be challenged by Clemson because of its Atlantic Coast Conference pedigree and because it beat UC last season with most of the same players, the 16th-ranked Bearcats (5-0) instead handled the Tigers (4-4) as if they were just another overmatched mid-major.
UC used its trapping defense to force 25 turnovers in its 79-56 victory Wednesday night before 12,289 fans at Fifth Third Arena.
The UC victory spoiled the return to Southwest Ohio of former Dayton coach Oliver Purnell, who's in his first year as the head Clemson head coach.
Junior forward Jason Maxiell led UC with 20 points and eight rebounds. Field Williams scored 17 points.
Olu Babalola led Clemson with 13 points.
The Bearcats displayed the rust of their 15-day layoff in the early going. They missed four of their first five shots and fell behind, 10-4.
With the Bearcats still trailing, 14-10, forward Eric Hicks slammed home a follow shot that sent UC on a 10-0 run.
The Bearcats also received a boost from point guard Chadd Moore, who righted the offense when he came off the bench at the 11:31 mark. When he entered the game, UC trailed 14-12. Three minutes later, the Bearcats led, 25-17.
Once they took the lead, they didn't let up. UC outscored Clemson, 37-11, in the final 12:40 seconds of the first half.
The Bearcats played some of their best basketball of the young season during that span. They fed off their trapping defense, which forced 11 first-half turnovers and set up UC for 12 transition points.
They held a 24-8 edge in points in the paint. Nine players saw action and eight of them scored.
Center Robert Whaley, making his first appearance since undergoing knee surgery on Dec. 3, scored four points with four rebounds.
Hicks scored eight first-half points with three rebounds.
By the second half, the Tigers were so flustered they were turning the ball over at times even without much pressure from UC. They committed six turnovers in the first three minutes after intermission.
UC seemed intent on matching their opponents' sloppiness and before long the second half became a sloppy mess for both teams.
Using its own full-court pressure, Clemson reduced UC's 22-point halftime lead to 12 with 8:55 to as UC coach Bob Huggins stewed on the bench. Starting with a Field Williams trey, the Bearcats then scored seven straight points to get the lead back to 19.
UC's next game is Saturday against Middle Tennessee State. Florida transfer James White will make his long-awaited debut.
Team rebounds - 3.
Team rebounds - 4.
3-pointers - Clemson 6-18 (Babalola 3-7, Hamilton 1-3, Christie 1-2, Rice 0-1, Robinson 1-4, Long 0-1), Cincinnati 5-21 (Kirkland 1-3, F. Williams 3-10, Moore 1-2, Bobbitt 0-6). Technicals - None. Officials - Clougherty, Valentine, Rose. Attendance - 12,289.
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