HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP)—For No. 6 Cincinnati, throttling Southern Mississippi doesn’t make up for being humbled by Louisville. Not even close.
Tony Bobbitt scored 19 points and the Bearcats made a robust recovery from their first loss of the season, routing Southern Miss 83-47 on Saturday.
Jason Maxiell had 17 points and James White added 13 for the Bearcats, who were knocked hard from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 93-66 loss at No. 5 Louisville in a nationally televised game.
“Wednesday night, do you know there was like 5 million people watching that game …. watching us get our tails kicked,” Bobbitt said. “We still got that in our mind. Like `Coach Hug’ said, he had never been beat like that. That was embarrassing.
“Today, we wanted to come out and get a little stress off our shoulders, but it’s still on our shoulders because that was embarrassing, man.”
The Bearcats (14-1, 5-1 Conference USA) had more turnovers forced (16) than field goals allowed (14) in handing Southern Miss its worst home loss in 22 years.
“They were angry at Louisville, but they didn’t get a chance to play Louisville, so they took it out on us,” Southern Miss coach James Green said.
The Golden Eagles (9-7, 2-3) upset Cincinnati in the first round of last year’s conference tournament and came in playing their best ball of the season with recent wins over Memphis and Marquette.
The Bearcats still had that loss to Southern Miss on their minds, too.
“If somebody hit you in your face, don’t you want to fight back?” Bobbitt said.
Any thoughts of another Southern Miss stunner were squashed early by the Bearcats, who led 15-3 after 5 minutes.
Charles Gaines, Southern Miss’ leading scorer, was held to four points on 0-for-7 shooting.
Bearcats coach Bob Huggins castigated his team after the Louisville game for their lackluster effort in the second half. But the volatile and demanding coach took a softer approach with his guys leading up to the Southern Miss game.
“We talked the last few days about how long a season it is and how you can’t let one game affect your next game,” Huggins said.
Bobbitt said practices haven’t been any more intense the last few days.
“(Huggins) didn’t come in and yell, he came in and fixed things,” Bobbitt said.
Whatever energy and focus the Bearcats were missing at Freedom Hall, they found in the first 15 minutes at Reed Green Coliseum.
Cincinnati hounded and harassed the Golden Eagles on the defensive end and ran its offense crisply, getting plenty of good looks.
Southern Miss went nearly 8 minutes without a field goal and missed 19 of its first 21 shots.
“I thought we started the game with the jitters,” Green said. “It was one of those games where there was a lot of hype. There was a heck of an opportunity, but we missed the opportunity.”
When the Golden Eagles finally broke the drought with a jumper by Greg Johnson that made it 21-8 with 10:43 left, the Bearcats seemed to take it as an insult.
Cincinnati proceeded to reel off 11 straight points, highlighted by Maxiell’s powerful one-handed dunk and smooth turnaround jumper, to go up 32-8 with about 5 minutes left in the half.
Only a late spurt by the Golden Eagles and some off-target shooting by the Bearcats kept the halftime score from being worse than 38-22.
It was more of the same in the second half.
Cincinnati pulled away for good with an early 14-2 run that included consecutive 3-pointers by Bobbitt and Nick Williams, and a soaring layup by White.
Bobbitt’s slam off a turnover with 12:45 left made it 56-30. The rest of the game was garbage time.
“It wasn’t easy, man. It was just taking our time, helping each other and sharing the ball,” Bobbitt said.
Jasper Johnson had 13 points to lead the Golden Eagles, who lost their 10th straight regular-season game to Cincinnati.