Bearcats make resounding statement

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UC holds Dayton to the fewest points allowed in the Mick Cronin era and invigorates optimism following one of the season's most significant non-conference tests.


Will Frasure

Special to


CINCINNATI -- As Dion Dixon received a pass and stood wide-open at the top of the 3-point arc, he stood confused for a second as no Dayton defenders closed on him.


After he hesitated, Dixon pulled back and buried it, one of Cincinnati's five first half 3-pointers. The shot capped off the most impressive shooting half of the Bearcats' season as Cincinnati knocked Dayton off-guard with its outside shooting.


"It was just a snowball effect," coach Mick Cronin said. "Dayton's a much better team than they showed tonight, and the snowball kept rolling downhill on them as we kept hitting shots."


Even when the Flyers actually did drape over Dixon and Rashad Bishop, the pair shot without hesitation. Bishop and Dixon had become accustomed to their shots rimming out, but on Saturday they sank with ease.


Their efforts culminated in a 21-point first half lead wide as the river that wraps U.S. Bank Arena.


The energy translated over to the other side of the ball, as Cincinnati held Dayton to 19 first half points and only 34 on the night.


"Whenever you play with high energy, everyone feeds off it," Dixon said. "My shots were falling, that was a good thing, but I was trying to play hard."


Like he's been waiting for his team's shots to fall, Cronin has been hoping for a breakout performance from forward Ibrahima Thomas. The 6-11 skyscraper from Senegal finally proved his coach right.


Thomas became the man in the middle for the Bearcats after two early fouls sent Yancy Gates to the pine. Gates played but three minutes in the first half. With their usual source for offense gazing from the sidelines, Bishop and Dixon threw up shots without fear while Thomas held his own down low on the way to six points and seven rebounds in the half.


"He was excellent," Cronin said. "He played through fatigue, probably the best stretch he's played all season...It was good to see him that intense and hold down the fort for us."


The Bearcats have struggled in the second half after thriving at the beginning of the games, but not this time. Cincinnati set the tone in the second half as the team jumped out to a 12-0 run.


"Growing up, that's what happened," Darnell Wilks said about coming out strong in the second half. "We knew we could come out and play hard like we did in the first half. You saw us growing up and trying to do that."


The ground underneath Dayton started to crumble as Dixon hammered home a breakaway dunk. It collapsed when Gates swatted a weak layup from Chris Wright on the next play.


As Brian Gregory called timeout, the Cincinnati fans roared for the Bearcats. After the teams returned to the floor, the Bearcats continued their run and shut out the Flyers until 11:27 remained and the win was all but wrapped up.


UC enjoyed the final minutes as the time ran off on one of the most dominating wins over a major opponent in the Mick Cronin era. And the most encouraging sign to date that era could be finally starting to blossom.


"I didn't have to do anything (to motivate our guys)," Cronin said. "The way they beat us in our own arena last year is embarrassing enough. I was banking on our guys having enough pride that I didn't have to talk a whole lot about it, and they came out hard."

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great win for the cats. glad to see the team have some positive momentum early in the year. I can only think that the big east schedule punishes the team so much throughout the year that by the time the post-season arrives, the team is spent. I think that's what happened in the loss to UD last year in the NIT. So tired of seeing mediocre uc bball teams. Let's hope this one is different.

Paul: UC dominates another cupcake. The Bearcats will be 12 & 1 or 13 & 0 going into conference play. We will have no idea what kind of team we have, bacause of our pre-season cupcake schedule. How does playing that kind of peseason schedule prepare you for the Big East Conference? Paul, if you think UC is going to have a great basketball season this year. You have got to eating to much Skippy peanut butter. Tks, Gary