Clark, Cumberland help No. 20 Cincinnati cruise
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. — Even while the shots kept falling for Cleveland State, the Cincinnati Bearcats stood the course.
“I told our guys to stay with it,” Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin said. “They stepped up and did what they needed to do.”
Gary Clark scored 18 points and Jarron Cumberland added 16, lifting No. 20 Cincinnati to an 81-62 victory over Cleveland State at BB&T Arena.
The Bearcats (11-2) finished the game on a 21-8 run to extend the nation’s longest active home-court winning streak to 33.
“Sometimes you get more out of it when you play a team that plays well against you,” said Cronin.
Bearcats senior forward Kyle Washington scored 14 points to eclipse 1,000 for his career. But, Cincinnati needs Washington for his rebounding as much as his offense, and on Thursday he had nine rebounds, helping the Bearcats outrebound Cleveland State 34-18, including 15-5 on the offensive end.
The Vikings (3-8) shot 50 percent from the floor and 47 percent from 3-point range, but with 18 minutes left, they were shooting 70 percent from the floor to stay close.
“Teams come to play us,” Clark said. “They were trying to drive and kick it. Guys were getting open and kind of playing horse out there.”
Freshman guard Tyree Appleby scored 16 points and Kenny Carpenter added 11 for Cleveland State, which fell to 0-7 on the road.
“We are learning how to compete at a team,” said Cleveland State head coach Dennis Felton. “I really enjoyed a lot of things about our approach tonight. The important thing is we build on this, that we have an appreciation for the good things we did tonight and still also have an appreciation for the improvement that’s left to make.”
Cleveland State began the game 5 of 9 from 3-point range and took a 25-23 lead on a 3-pointer from Kasheem Thomas.
Cincinnati, which committed 15 turnovers a Tuesday win over Arkansas Pine Bluff, had six turnovers in the first half Thursday and finished with 11. However, Cleveland State committed 11 of its own in the opening half, and the Bearcats converted those into 19 points.
The Vikings shot 68.4 percent in the half and were 7-for-12 from 3-point range.
“They hit some really hard shots in the first half,” Cronin said. “They made some really hard shots in the first half. Their kids made some great passes. They had nothing to lose.”
Trevor Moore beat the halftime buzzer with a 3-pointer, giving Cincinnati its largest lead at 43-34.
Cleveland State’s hot shooting continued, though. The Vikings opened the second half with a 7-0 run to reduce a nine-point deficit to two.
“They played hard,” said Washington of the Vikings. “They were just hitting shots and we had to come together as a unit.”
Justin Jenifer’s 3-pointer pushed Cincinnati’s lead to 60-49 with fewer than 10 minutes left. Cleveland State scored five straight points to stay close, but turnovers continued to plague the Vikings as Cincinnati pulled away late.
“We had a great chance to win this game until a little stretch where it got away from us,” Felton said. “That stretch was primarily some steals. Some live-ball turnovers where they reached in and stripped us for easy run outs.”
CSU led for only one minute, 15 seconds of Thursday’s game, but the Vikings were within six points with 8:58 left.
The Bearcats do not play again until opening American Athletic Conference play against Memphis on Dec. 31.
“I’ve got two things planned,” said Cronin. “Shopping and sleep.”
NOTES: Cincinnati’s last non-conference home loss was to Temple on Dec. 29, 2015. ... The Bearcats are playing their home games on the campus of Northern Kentucky University while Fifth Third Arena undergoes an $87 million renovation. ... Cleveland State is 6-44 all-time vs. ranked opponents. The Vikings’ last victory over a ranked team was a 71-58 win over No. 7 Vanderbilt in 2011. ... The Bearcats lead the all-time series 12-0. The Thursday game was the school’s first meeting since 1999.