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Big East statement

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Cincinnati posted it's second-largest margin of victory in a conference game under Mick Cronin, but in a sign of the expectations of this season, the Bearcats coach wasn't pleased with the overall performance.

 

CINCINNATI -- The Bearcats didn't care about making a statement in their first game of Big East play.

 

They did it anyway - at least for a half. And that was more than enough against DePaul.  

 

The undefeated Bearcats team chastised and criticized for their poor strength of schedule eagerly awaited the chance to prove they were more than 339 out of 345 SOS.

 

Granted, nobody was mistaking the Blue Demons for the Orange or Hoyas, but the Bearcats disposed of DePaul like a quality Big East team should.

 

They did so with the authority and immediacy of Darnell Wilks' windmill slam.

 

The final 20 minutes didn't provide the finish Mick Cronin or his team desired. His postgame press conference carried the tone of a 16-point defeat rather than the second largest margin of victory in a Big East game during his tenure.

 

Such is the state of expectations within the program for this season.

 

"Yeah, it's nice to be at the point where you are upset when you win by 16 and you are up 20 the whole game," Cronin said. "It's nice. But I'm still not happy."

 

He probably should be.

 

UC teams under Cronin don't blow teams out like this. At least, not historically. Last year UC won exactly one Big East game by double-digits, that was a 12-point win at UConn.

 

They won a game by 12 points two years ago against Rutgers and the record was a 23-point rout at WVU in 2008.

 

A confident undertone set the baseline of Cronin's criticism. He knows the capabilities of this team. The 35-6 first-half run that elicited roars reminiscent of 7,795 and the good old days in the Shoe provided a sneak peak.

 

"I feel like the sky is the limit for this team," Cronin said. "I think we got talent, I think we are a little bit better than most people think we are. It's good, (the sluggish second half defense) gives us something to practice, stay sharp for Friday and people can continue to think we aren't very good."

 

Cronin can talk all he wants about the 39 points allowed in the second half and unacceptable 20 points allowed in the paint after halftime. The blur of Larry Davis 3-pointers, Ibrahima Thomas rebounds, Yancy Gates dunks and Dion Dixon drives before the break drowned out his criticism.

 

Wins over DePaul don't draw headlines - unless you count the fact they've lost 24 consecutive road games and 14 consecutive Big East road games. Dominating as soundly as the Bearcats did for the first 20 minutes does at least draw a boldface subhead.

 

Oliver Purnell laughed at the concept of UC being slotted 12th in the Big East in the preseason. As far as if he thought 13-0 UC should join the other six undefeated teams in college basketball in the Top 25, he laughed at that as well.

 

"Absolutely," he said. "Look what they have. They have good guards, size in backcourt, quickness, a low post threat that can score on anybody. I like what they do defensively. They can guard you in the halfcourt, they also give you problems with their length in the backcourt. I'm impressed with their team."

 

On this night, it was Davis' season-high 20 points and four 3-pointers that fueled the win. Yancy Gates quietly posted 15 points and six boards. On other nights it may be Sean Kilpatrick or Cashmere Wright hitting the big shots.

 

With so many ways to win, it's hard not to start believing.  

 

On a night UC had one player knock down a 3-pointer and played an awful second-half of basketball on defense, they won running away by 16 points in the Big East.

 

When's the last time anybody said that?

 

That's a statement worth talking about - even if Tuesday wasn't about making one.

 

"No, we just talked about trying to keep winning," Gates said. "We felt, it's the Big East, you want to win games in the Big East no matter what game it is. Not because it's the first or the last game. We just want to come out and win."

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