Cincinnati shot 54 percent, led 41-26 at halftime and pushed that margin to 19 midway through the second half. The Bearcats never that lead slip to single digits, either.
Anthony "Cat" Barber scored 15 points to lead N.C. State, though the Wolfpack's offense looked out of rhythm from the start against Cincinnati's press and zone defenses. N.C. State committed early turnovers to give the Bearcats momentum and found itself playing from behind nearly all afternoon.
Top scorer Trevor Lacey finished with just six points on 1-for-8 shooting, while outside shooter Ralston Turner finished with just five points — a crippling lack of production for a team that has relied on its backcourt all season.
N.C. State, which had rallied from 18 down after halftime to beat Louisiana Tech in its last game, twice got the lead to 10 in the final 5 minutes.
But the Bearcats answered N.C. State's last push with three straight baskets, starting with Octavius Ellis dunking home a miss from Gary Clark then Thomas banking in a shot off a spin move.
Jermaine Sanders followed with a layup to make it 69-53 with 2:18 and essentially seal the win.
For Cincinnati, it was a good way to head into American Athletic Conference play this weekend. The Bearcats controlled the glass (31-26) and shot 14 for 23 (61 percent) after halftime to prevent the Wolfpack from stringing together any run-building baskets.