CINCINNATI -- After the holiday disaster that saw the Cincinnati Bearcats fall to the #1-ranked team in the country last week by nearly 20 points, Bob Huggins just wanted a well-rounded performance in the C-USA opener.
Even the usually hard-to-please Huggins walked away with a smile on his face after Thursday's 83-54 victory over the DePaul Blue Demons.
Cincinnati used an early 14-2 run in the middle of the first half to pull away from DePaul behind 19 points from Jason Maxiell.
The Bearcats struggled to find any sort of offensive consistency against Illinois last week, and Huggins really wanted to see a lot better ball movement to kick off the conference slate.
An early 29-11 lead for the Bearcats with just 9:39 left in the first half was capped off by a hot shooting start from guard Jihad Muhammed, who got the start in place of Chadd Moore.
Muhammed accounted for 11 of Cincinnati's first 20 points, on their way to a 43-20 halftime lead.
"Our ball movement was much better tonight," a relieved Huggins said in the postgame wrap-up. "We shot the ball well and really shot it in the second half especially well."
Although Muhammed accounted for four assists, Huggins also cited the four turnovers that could be eliminated from the box score.
"The refreshing thing about Jihad is that he tries and he really listens," Huggins said. "But, we need him to get to do the things he has got to do for our team to do well. I would like to see those four turnovers be no more than one or two turnovers."
The Bearcats were busy in the first half on the defensive end, as well.
DePaul and the Conference USA's leading scorer, Quemont Greer, came into the game averaging 22.4 points a game. However, Eric Hicks and Maxiell took turns down low taking Greer out of the game, holding him to four first-half points and just 12 for the game.
It was the first time in eight games Greer had been held under 20 points.
As the second half began, it was the Maxiell show. Maxiell scored Cincinnati's first 10 points, extending their commanding lead to 26 points (53-27).
Feeling a little left out, Armein Kirkland got in on the act.
Kirkland caught fire himself, scoring 12 second-half points on his way to 16 for the game. He also added nine rebounds, including four on the offensive end. Kirkland had just one offensive rebound the entire season before Thursday.
"Armein did a great job penetrating, although I would have liked to see him dish the ball back outside a few times," Huggins said. "He forced it in too much, but overall he did well. The rebounding was definitely refreshing to see."
"If we can get Armein to continue to play like that and go to the basket more often, it will really help," he added.
Cincinnati was mostly on cruise control the entire second half.
The biggest excitement for DePaul came on a thunderous dunk by Greer with 8:20 left in the game on Maxiell. Unfortunately for Greer, he was issued a technical foul after taunting Maxiell when he came down.
Up 80-54 with just seconds left in the game, Cincinnati got a 3-pointer from walk-on Ryan Patzwald, the first of his career.
James White added 10 points for the Bearcats, while Erick Hicks had eight points and seven boards. Greer was the only player in double-figures for the Blue Deamons with 12. Levar Seals added nine points.
"I thought we played well for the most part," Huggins concluded. "We have a ways to go in ball movement and decision making."
Cincinnati will now venture to St. Louis for it's second conference game. The Billikens are 3-10 on the season. The tip is at 8:10 ET.