CINCINNATI - Closing the last three minutes of the half pulling away from a five-point edge, Cincinnati took control and clamped down on Northwestern State's struggling offense in the game's final 11 minutes by allowing the Demons only 10 points while recording a 71-43 college basketball win Monday night.
The Bearcats, who slipped out of the national Top 25 polls following a 56-54 homecourt loss Saturday to Presbyterian, got 18 points and 11 rebounds from Yancy Gates, 13 points and 8 rebounds by Sean Kilpatrick and 12 points from Dion Dixon while improving to 3-1. Cincinnati held the Demons to 24 percent (15-54) shooting aim while making 54 percent of its own shots, and outrebounded NSU 44-26.
Shamir Davis and James Hulbin each posted 13 points for Northwestern (2-3), which ended a season-opening stretch of five games in 10 days, the last four contests on the road. It was the lowest point total for the Demons in 82 games dating back to an 82-36 defeat on Dec. 31, 2007 at Oklahoma State.
Senior center William Mosley left the game in the second half with a knee injury and did not return. The nation's leading shot blocker last season was able to walk off the court at game's end without help. Demons' coach Mike McConathy said initial indications were the injury might not be serious.
Northwestern was within 19-14 with 3:12 before halftime after a Mosley dunk off a Davis pass, but Cincinnati sank seven free throws in a closing 12-2 run to lead 31-16 at the break. The lead was a modest 47-33 with 11:44 to go after a Hulbin 3-pointer, but Gates hit a jump shot 23 seconds later and unleashed a string of 13 unanswered points over the next five minutes. Cincinnati was called for only five fouls in the game's first 35 minutes.
"We couldn't score the basketball. We didn't match their physical play, we obviously didn't rebound well. We're not yet very efficient offensively, but we did well for a stretch defensively. We did do some good work there with 13 steals and forcing 19 turnovers," said McConathy. "We competed hard, but we didn't win enough battles on loose balls, we didn't finish plays. We missed too many easy shots and inside shots. There's a lot to improve and playing this level of competition exposes that in a very raw way."
The Demons, who come home to host Jacksonville State at 7:45 Friday night in the second half of a doubleheader with the NSU women, had the bad fortune to face the Bearcats after their stinging loss Saturday, in which they blew a 15-point second half lead.
"We knew it would be a tough, tough challenge and Cincinnati responded the way you would expect a nationally-ranked team to bounce back from a homecourt loss to an unranked team. We have Presbyterian to thank for waking up a sleeping Bearcat," said McConathy. "They were very tenacious, and played a very good brand of physical basketball."
NSU will benefit from having time during the Thanksgiving break to work on improving as it opens a stretch with two straight home games and four Prather Coliseum appearances in the next seven outings, said McConathy.
"They've got to start believing they can play this game, and we have to convince them to do the things the coaches want done. We will be getting a lot of shots up the rest of this week leading into our Friday night home game. We've got to be tougher with the ball. We can be a good basketball team, but it's going to take hard work," said the 13th-year head coach.
After hosting Jacksonville State Friday night, NSU will face Arkansas-Little Rock, a 2011 NCAA Tournament entry, next Tuesday night in Prather Coliseum.