Hare’s 23 points lead Belmont to 86-75 win over Cincinnati
CINCINNATI (AP)—Justin Hare scored 23 points Friday night, and Belmont repeatedly got open layups and uncontested 3-pointers in an 86-75 victory that snapped Cincinnati’s streak of 42 consecutive victories in home openers.
Belmont (1-0), the two-time defending Atlantic Sun Conference champion, built a 13-point lead midway through the second half and held on against a team trying to dig out from two years of turmoil.
Hare, the Bruins’ lone senior who was their leading scorer last season at 14.3 point per game, had 16 in the first half alone. The Bruins got the bulk of their points off layups and 3-pointers against a man-to-man defense that couldn’t keep up.
It was the most points Cincinnati (0-1) allowed in a season opener since an 87-72 loss to Mississippi State in 1979. Also, it was the second impressive win for an Atlantic Sun team this week—Gardner-Webb knocked off No. 20 Kentucky 84-68 on Wednesday night.
Earlier Friday, Western Carolina beat Bowling Green 63-60 in the opener of the Peggy Cronin Classic. The three-day, round-robin tournament honoring the deceased mother of Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin is being played on the Bearcats’ home court.
The home team couldn’t have played much worse on defense.
Eight of Belmont’s first 11 baskets came on layups, two of them when a man was left unguarded for an easy pass-and-score. The Bruins shot 51.6 percent from the field overall.
Belmont went cold at the end of the first half, repeatedly missing open 3-point shots. That gave Cincinnati an opening, and Marcus Sikes and Deonta Vaughn hit 3s in a closing 10-point run that put the Bearcats ahead 43-39 at halftime. Vaughn led Cincinnati with 19 points.
Belmont made six of its first seven shots to open the second half, including all four from behind the arc. Three consecutive 3s, the last by Hare, completed a 15-2 run that put the Bruins ahead to stay 57-50.
Cincinnati never got closer than four points the rest of the way. A 3-pointer by Will Peeples gave the Bruins their biggest lead, 73-60, midway through the half.
It was so disgusting for the home crowd that Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson left his courtside seat with 1:45 to go. The Bearcats are in their second season digging out from the mess caused by Bob Huggins’ ouster and the school’s decision to go a full season with an interim coach.
Cincinnati went 11-19 and ended up last in the Big East last season under Cronin, who had to cobble a roster together on the fly.