Cincinnati 64, DePaul 56
CINCINNATI (AP)—Taron Barker returned to point guard and had nine points and six assists Wednesday night as Cincinnati built a 19-point lead and held on for a 64-56 victory over DePaul.
With flu-weakened coach Bob Huggins sitting on the bench rather than standing and screaming, Cincinnati (8-3, 1-0 Conference USA) never trailed against a team off to its best start in nine years.
The Blue Demons (8-3, 0-1) were picked to finish last in their division in a preseason poll of league coaches, but got off to a solid start by playing tight defense under first-year coach Dave Leitao.
It didn’t take long for the Blue Demons to find out how they measured up against the conference’s seven-time regular-season champions.
The Bearcats pulled out to a 30-14 lead, then pushed it to 19 point with 11:16 left in the game. Cincinnati played so crisply up to that point that Huggins was able to sit on a folding chair and save his energy.
Huggins had a massive heart attack on Sept. 28, but didn’t miss a practice. He had to skip Tuesday’s workout because of the flu, and looked tired as he sat and watched pregame warmups.
He grew more animated as DePaul used an 18-2 run to make it a game. Sam Hoskin’s three-point play cut it to 55-53 with 3:25 to go, and Huggins hopped twice on the sideline and waved his arms in reaction to a foul moments later.
Baskets by Leonard Stokes and Jason Maxiell ended DePaul’s comeback, and Stokes had a steal and a free throw with 15 seconds left that clinched it. Hoskin led DePaul with 22 points.
The Bearcats’ trapping man-to-man defense quickly got DePaul rattled. The Blue Demons missed 10 of their first 14 shots and had seven turnovers while Cincinnati built the early lead. DePaul had 18 turnovers, one shy of its season high.
In one telling moment, Leitao stomped his foot on the floor while calling for his team to set screens to free its shooters. While the Blue Demons found their spots, guard Marlon London dribbled in place and got a five-second call.
Cincinnati’s offense changed point guards, but kept a quick pace. Barker, a senior who missed the last game because of a sore back, made both of his shots and had three rebounds and three assists in the first seven minutes. He got an ovation when he went to the bench for a brief rest with the Bearcats up 13-5.
Freshman backup Chadd Moore scored 12 points and had eight assists while filling in for Barker during an 81-51 win over Chattanooga last Thursday. Moore had 10 of his 11 points in the second half in the second half Wednesday, when Barker hurt his right leg and went to the bench for several minutes.
Point guard hasn’t been the Bearcats’ biggest problem. They’ve gotten little from their centers, who didn’t score much once again. Maxiell, a power forward, had 12 points and eight rebounds to anchor the front line.
No matter who is the head coach, DePaul hasn’t figured out how to beat Cincinnati. The Bearcats have won 23 of their last 24 games, including seven in a row.