The Cincinnati Bearcats opened the 2011-2012 season with a 65-40 win over Alabama State on Sunday night at Fifth Third Arena.
Yancy Gates drives for layup against Alabama State. (photo credit: Brian Baker/Lacking Focus Photography)
The Bearcats (1-0, 0-0 Big East) used a fast start to put Alabama State away early.
The stingy Bearcat defense, led by Justin Jackson who’s emphatic blocked shots had the crowd on their feet early, gave up just fourteen first-half points to an Alabama State squad returning four starters from a team that won the SWAC Conference championship just one year ago.
“We played about as well as we could in the first half,” said Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin after the game. “We were shooting wide-open shots, but the problem was we were one for nine from long range. In the second half we had ten turnovers and didn’t play nearly as well. Our defense was excellent.”
The Bearcats were led in scoring by Yancy Gates who finished with 15, but three other players finished in double figures as well.
Gates, who finished with a double-double, added 11 rebounds as well. The senior forward was a force to be reckoned with underneath against an undersized Horner frontcourt.
“Our defense is getting there,” said Gates after the game. “Our rotations are getting better. We just need to keep working and practice and work on getting the ball in the basket. We need to make sure we put as much focus on our offense as much as our defense and get back in a rhythm as a team.”
Sean Kilpatrick, one of the Bearcat’s keys to success this season, came under criticism from his head coach after he failed to impose any toughness on the glass in his team’s first two preseason games.
Kilpatrick, who grabbed nine rebounds on Sunday night, spoke to the major effect coach Cronin has had on his game.
“Coach is always raving about the other team’s rebounding, and we see their film,” said Kilpatrick. “For the past three years he’s known me better than everyone. He knows how to get me amped up, and he knows how to push my buttons, but I like it.”
The effort Kilpatrick showed on Sunday didn’t go unnoticed by his coach.
“I was really happy with Sean tonight,” said Cronin. “I told him you can’t rely on shooting alone, you have to be a complete player. He really took that to heart and he almost had a double-double tonight.”
The Bearcats will return to the court on Tuesday, November 15th to take on Jacksonville State before hosting Presbyterian next Saturday at 4 p.m.