CCU (0-3, 0-0 Big South) came into the game with three players scoring over 11 points a game, but only one Chanticleer would hit double digits this night as the ‘Cats (4-0, 0-0 Big East) and their strong second half defense kept Coastal Carolina at bay.
The Chanticleers got off to a fast start as junior guard Mario Edwards connected from beyond the arc on the team's first offensive possession, giving CCU an early 3-2 lead. The shots were falling and the Bearcat's defensive efforts proving ineffective from the game's onset, with Coastal Carolina leading by as many as six points seven minuets into the game when a lay up by Edwards made it 19-13 in favor of the Chanticleers. A Rashad Bishop long distance shot would cut the lead in half, and another make from three-point land, this time by Larry Davis, would tie the game at 21.
Alvin Mitchell gave the Bearcats a three-point lead with 9:45 to play in the first half as his effort from long range made it 24-21. It was the first Cincinnati lead since Bishop's jumper made it 2-0 less than 30 seconds into the game. The Bearcats shot 53.2 per cent (33-of-62) and 47.8 per cent (11-of-23) from behind the three-point arc. Junior guard Deonta Vaughn led all scorers for the first time this season with 17 points as he shot 50 per cent from behind the three-point line (4-of-8) and the floor overall (6-of-12).
In Cincinnati's 74-59 victory over CCU last season, Vaughn had a major coming out party, shooting 12-of-19 from the field (63 per cent) and 9-of-15 from three (60 per cent) en route to 36 points. A similar performance would not be needed this year, as Davis finished the night with 14 points, Anthony McClain had 11, while Mike Williams and Bishop added eight apiece.
"They seem to have more perimeter shooting from a year ago," said Coastal Carolina head coach Cliff Ellis of the Bearcats. "Last year when we played them it was Vaughn. Vaughn was really the only guy that was lightning. Tonight you've got Davis and you've got Mitchell, and I know the Dixon kid didn't shoot it well but he can, I've seen him do that."
The ‘Cats led just 45-37 at halftime. Upset with his team's defense the entire first half, head coach Mick Cronin made changes at halftime would lead to the Chanticleers going scoreless for nearly the first eight and a half minutes of the second half, when Joseph Harris finally sunk two free throws.
"We just got in a defensive stance, kept the ball in front of us, and changed the game with our defense," said Cronin of his team's play in the second half. "It was good for us to get some game pressure tonight for the first time, and coming out of the locker room where we had to make some adjustments and rise to the challenge a little bit. We were able to maintain our composure and do what we needed to do and play great defense in the second half."
"We had to kick it up the second half," said Vaughn. "We kept them at 23 per cent throughout the second half and we played great defense, just kept the people in front of us and made them take tough shots."
CCU shot just over 38 per cent (23-of-60) overall on the night, led by freshman guard Dexter Moore who set a career-high with 17 points.
McClain had another great night for Cincinnati. Along with his 11 points, the sophomore center totaled a team-high seven rebounds and game-high four blocks while playing in just 14 minutes.
Vaughn and Davis notched the most playing time for UC tonight, each playing 31 minutes, but ten of the eleven Bearcats that saw action against CCU totaled double digit minutes, something coach Cronin says he would like to continue throughout this season.
While the game may have looked like just another early season blowout win for Cronin and the ‘Cats, the coach insists the team learned a major lesson Monday night in The Shoemaker Center.
"One thing we learned tonight was that defense wins. You want to put a team away? You need to shut them down," said Cronin. "You can't let somebody shoot 53 per cent from the field as Coastal did in the first half. But our guys made the adjustments at halftime and came out and played great second half defense. Defense wins, rebounding's important, but it's dangerous to try to win with offense. The constant for us is going to have to be our defense."
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