The Cincinnati Bearcats (10-2, 0-0 Big East) defeated Arkansas-Pine Bluff (1-9, 0-0 SWAC) on Monday night by a final score of 79-49, bringing their season win total to 10 games headed into their matchup with Memphis a week from tonight.
The Bearcats used balanced scoring and rebounding - - each player on the roster recorded at least 1 point and 1 rebound - - to get the win over a struggling Lions team that had won just one of its first nine games.
Head Coach Mick Cronin said after the game that the team's main focus was on the defensive end.
"We tried to work on defense," said Cronin. "We tried to pick up the pressure. We wanted to get our hands active and on the ball. We had a season high of 55 deflections tonight that resulted in 15 turnovers. We scored 20 points off turnovers tonight which is a season high. We are trying to be more active on the defense end because we need some easy baskets in our upcoming games."
The Bearcats defense, which came into the game averaging 5.9 steal per contest, finished the night with 15 steals - - the highest number of steals for a Bearcats teams since November 29th, 2003 when they had 17 thefts against Coppin State.
The Bearcats received double digit scoring from 4 players on the night. Deonta Vaughn, who is a staple in the double figures category, was joined in that column by Steven Toyloy, Dion Dixon, and Yancy Gates. For Gates, this marks his 4th consecutive game in double figures, and six out of his last seven.
Dixon went 4-of-8 from the field and scored 11 points in the win after shooting just 5-of-25 in his past three games.
Dixon said after the game that he feels he is progressing that well and just trying to learn from Cronin on how to get better with each passing game.
"I'm young so Coach Cronin just keeps telling me I need to learn," said Dixon. "So he has just been trying to teach me."
With the win, the team has now reached the 10 win plateau, an achievement they did reach have until January 30th of last season.
While the Bearcats have played their fair share of so-called "lesser teams," they have also played some very quality opponents including Xavier, Florida State, UAB, and a UNLV team who has not lost since the two teams met in Las Vegas.
Coach Cronin talked after the game about the positive effects the type of schedule they played has had on his team.
"One thing I like is that we had chance to play some people," said Cronin. "We have had a chance to get challenged and also to get some guys some game experience. Now it's time to find out how much we have learned. Another thing I like is that we can get some practice time in now before Memphis."
The Bearcats have a week off to prepare for their upcoming streak of games, but they will need to stay focused as a road game in Memphis is a tough test for everyone.