CINCINNATI (AP)—Cincinnati pulled out a defense it hadn’t used in 10 years, and it helped sparked a game-winning run.
The No. 18 Bearcats used a half-court trap to force Akron to miss nine consecutive shots and commit six turnovers during a 17-0 first-half run that propelled Cincinnati to an 88-66 win Saturday night.
“I think we haven’t played that since 1993,” said Bob Huggins, who coached Akron before taking the Bearcats’ job in 1989. “I’m sure they weren’t ready for it, because they didn’t know we were going to play it, but we will play it.”
He was right.
“We didn’t handle their pressure well in the first half,” Akron’s Rick McFadden said. “They forced us up the floor in the half-court. They forced us further out in our half-court offense.”
Reserve Tony Bobbitt scored a game-high 21 points, and Nick Williams added 14 to help Cincinnati to its 38th consecutive win in home openers.
“I have no problem with coming off the bench,” Bobbitt said. “I was always told by my father when I was younger, ‘It doesn’t matter who starts, but who finishes.’ It doesn’t bother me. I’ll go into a foxhole with any of my teammates. I’ll come off the bench and give a spark.”
He’s certainly appreciated by Huggins.
“Tony really works hard,” the coach said. “He’s got a good attitude, and he’s gotten better.”
Field Williams also reached double figures with 12 points, and he had three steals—as many as the entire Akron team. Jason Maxiell just missed a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds. Ten of the 11 players who played for Cincinnati scored.
“That’s the best Field’s ever played, defensively,” Huggins said. “That’s the best Nick has ever played, because he didn’t think as much.
“We played a lot harder than we did in the exhibitions. We did a a lot of fine things, but we just don’t have the killer instinct.”
Akron, which has all five starters returning from last season’s 14-14 team, sustained its worst loss since falling to Bowling Green by 30 points on Feb. 23, 2002—a span of 33 games.
Derrick Tarver, who led the Mid-American Conference in scoring with a 20.6 average last season, rebounded from a six-point first half to finish with 19 for the Zips. Johnny Hollingsworth, second in the MAC with a 17.4 average last season, scored only five points.
The Bearcats took control with the 6-minute, 37-second run that put them ahead 24-8 with 7:53 left in the first half. Williams scored seven points during the run, including the last five.
Cincinnati led 44-21 at the half, limiting Akron to 25-percent (6-for-24) shooting and forcing 13 turnovers. Akron finished at 40.8 percent after shooting 48.7 last season—the 10th-best figure in the nation.
“When you shoot 6-for-24 and commit turnovers, it’s a wonder you’re not down 40,” Akron coach Dan Hipsher said. “We didn’t step up in the first half with some veteran guys out there.”
Dru Joyce, a high school teammate of LeBron James at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, scored 10 points in his college debut for Akron.