CINCINNATI (AP)—Field Williams scored 17 points in a balanced offense as Cincinnati, playing unranked for the first time in nearly a year, beat Valparaiso 76-50 on Monday night.
The Bearcats (3-1) rebounded from a six-point loss at Dayton on Saturday night that dropped them out of the Top 25 for the first time since last Dec. 14. They had been ranked for their last 30 games.
Lack of production from three interchangeable and equally ineffective centers hurt the Bearcats in Dayton. It wasn’t a problem against Valparaiso (2-2), which couldn’t figure out how to use its height advantage.
The Crusaders had trouble getting the ball inside to 6-foot-11 senior Raitis Grafs, who averages 22 points per game and is 3 inches taller than any of the Bearcats.
Grafs scored only 11 points and picked up his fourth foul at 14:49 of the second half. Seven-foot backup Antti Nikkila scored 7.
Power forward Jason Maxiell, who was in a 6-for-27 shooting slump in the first two games, scored 14 for the Bearcats on 6-of-10 shooting. Leonard Stokes added 15.
Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins, who had a massive heart attack nine weeks ago, was unusually subdued during the loss at Dayton. He put on a tie for the first time this season and came out screaming Monday night.
Two minutes into the game, he was on the floor yelling at the referees: “That’s not a foul!” An assistant grabbed the back of his jacket and diplomatically tugged him back to the bench.
He also exploded over a goaltending call that helped Valparaiso cut a 14-point deficit to eight late in the first half. He got worked up again when the lead languished around 15 points in the second half, and called a 30-second timeout so he could berate one of his backups.
The Bearcats’ strength is shooting from the perimeter, and they found open shots against Valparaiso’s zone defense. Williams hit a pair of 3-pointers as Cincinnati opened the game with a 13-5 spurt and never trailed. Williams was 5-of-12 on 3s.
The Crusaders got rattled by Cincinnati’s extended man-to-man defense, turning the ball over 20 times while shooting 38 percent from the field.
The Bearcats will have the home-court advantage when they play No. 16 Xavier again on Saturday.