CINCINNATI- The Cincinnati Bearcats dropped their season opener to the Belmont Bruins 86-75.
The Bearcats had advantages in athleticism and size over Belmont, but their inexperience caught up with them.
"We knew Belmont had a really good team and it's early in the year," said Head Coach Mick Cronin. "When Jamual Warren got hurt I knew it was going to cause problems for us."
Belmont started four juniors and a senior against the young Bearcats. Belmont's lone senior, Justin Hare, lit the Bearcats up for 23 points on 9-16 shooting. Junior Andy Wicke added 19 points on 7-12 shooting.
Deonta Vaughn led the Bearcats in scoring with 19 points on 7-16 shooting. With Warren out, Vaughn had to play 37 minutes and did not have his best game, committing seven turnovers.
"I thought our passing was atrocious tonight and our shot selection was even worse," said Cronin.
The Bearcats committed 19 turnovers in the game. They also had just 12 assists on 27 field goals.
"We had a lot of breakdowns on offense that caused us to play poor defense," Cronin said.
Belmont showed great patience on offense and rarely settled for shots other than lay-ups or wide-open threes. They neutralized the size differential by spreading the aggressive Cincinnati defense out along the perimeter. The shooting ability of Belmont's post players limited Anthony McClain to just six minutes in the game.
The Bearcats really struggled to take care of the ball early in the game. Belmont enjoyed a lead for most of the first half but a late run by the Bearcats closed the gap. The Bearcats finished the first half with a 12-0 run to take a 43-39 lead.
The late run by the Bearcats did not discourage the Belmont Bruins, who came out in the second half on fire from the perimeter. After going 5-18 in the first half, Belmont hit seven of their twelve three point attempts in the second half.
Belmont jumped out to a lead in the first few minutes of the second half and never looked back. UC tried to get back into the game by pressing, but Belmont made a point of getting the ball down the court before the Bearcats could set up the defense. Belmont committed just 13 turnovers in the game and had 24 assists on 32 field goals.
John Williamson was one of the few bright spots for Bearcats. Williamson had 13 rebounds and 10 points in the game. Early on when the Bearcats couldn't make a shot, Williamson kept them in it with his work on the glass. Adam Hrycaniuk had a decent game with 15 points and seven boards. He showed his range as well, hitting a few long jumpers and a three.
Larry Davis showed a nice shooting touch in the game, knocking down two threes and a pull-up jumper from 18 feet. Cronin said he was pleased with Davis' effort on the defensive end.
The Bearcats will look to get back on track Saturday at 7:00 against Western Carolina.