CINCINNATI (AP)—Yancy Gates opened the season with a double-double. His coach thinks he can do better.
The 6-foot-9 Cincinnati senior missed four of seven free throws but still scored 15 points and had 11 rebounds in his 14th career double-double and the No. 21 Bearcats opened their regular season with a 65-40 win over Alabama State on Sunday.
“Yancy was fine,” Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. “Offensively, I thought he had an off night. They were sending three or four guys at him. I’m sure he’d tell you he was frustrated by his free throws. It’s good when a guy can get a double-double and not have a good night. He’s going to have to learn to deal with three or four guys coming at him.”
Gates believes the Bearcats’ entire offense can be more effective.
“If we want to be good, we’ve got to start getting to that 75-80 (points) range,” he said. “We’re just getting used to each other, trying to find a rhythm as a team. If we’re going to win, I have to get double figures in rebounds and score the ball. It means I’m doing my part for the team.”
Sean Kilpatrick just missed his first career double-double with 13 points and nine rebounds to help the Bearcats improve to 18-2 in season openers at Fifth-Third Arena, where they will play their first six games this season, including Tuesday against Jacksonville State.
“I’m just trying to do anything and everything I can to help the team,” the sophomore guard said. “(Cronin) told me it was my intangibles that would help make the team win. I didn’t care about anything else, as long as we won.
Dion Dixon scored 14 points and Cashmere Wright finished with 10 for Cincinnati, which led by as many as 29 points during the second half.
Alabama State coach Lewis Jackson couldn’t help but be impressed.
“Well, they’re good,” he said. “Their guards are tough, strong and athletic. They have big guys around the basket with a lot of size and things like that so I’m sure they’re going to have an outstanding year as they did last year. They’re going to be a team to reckon with in the Big East. They really dominated us in all facets of the game.”
Kenderek Washington scored 18 points and Luther Page added 12 points for Alabama State (0-2), which opened the season with a 67-49 loss at Marshall on Friday. The Hornets won the Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament to earn an NCAA tournament berth last season and were picked in the coaches’ preseason poll to win the championship this season.
Cronin pointed out that Alabama State came in with a significant size disadvantage. Their tallest starter was the 6-6 Page.
“One thing I can say about Alabama State is their kids really battled hard,” Cronin said. “Obviously, we had them outmanned from a size standpoint. We played about as well as we could in the first half. We were getting ball movement and making that extra pass. In the second half, we weren’t quite as sharp.”
Dixon scored eight points and three other players added seven each as Cincinnati scored the first eight points of the game and opened up a 35-12 halftime lead. The Bearcats scored 13 points off of 11 Hornet turnovers to overcome a 1-for-9 performance on 3-pointers before halftime. They finished 3 for 15 from beyond the arc.
Alabama State missed 23 of its 30 first-half shots—including all eight 3-pointers—while mustering just 12 points, the fewest scored on the Bearcats in a half since Cronin became coach in the 2006-07 season. The Hornets didn’t reach double figures until Page scored on floater with 7:52 left in the half. They finished 3 for 21 on 3-pointers while shooting .290 (18-for-62) overall.
Sunday’s game drew 4,624 fans to the 13,176-seat Fifth-Third, where the Bearcats went 9-0 against nonconference opponents last season.