HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. (AP) — The Bearcats made their new digs feel just like the old ones in the most important way: They kept up that home-court winning streak.
Cane Broome scored 17 points during his debut as Cincinnati’s point guard, and the 12th-ranked Bearcats pulled away to a 107-77 victory over Savannah State on Friday that showed they need a lot of work in other areas.
Asked if he was happy with his team’s opener, coach Mick Cronin referred to the turnovers as his answer.
“Umm, not a whole lot,” Cronin said. “Our attitude’s great. Guys are trying. Twenty turnovers — that will drive a coach nuts. I told them the year is too long, I can’t lose it on the first game. I can’t go to the Maalox that early.”
The Bearcats showcased the offensive depth that brought them their highest AP preseason ranking since 1999-2000. Gary Clark — one of three returning starters — had 13 points and 11 rebounds in their first game on their temporary home court.
The Bearcats drew 6,610 fans to BB&T Arena at Northern Kentucky University, a half-hour drive from their on-campus arena that’s under renovation for the season. Cincinnati has won its last 27 home games overall after going 18-0 at Fifth Third Arena last season.
Broome sat out last season after transferring from Sacred Heart. He started the game and had four assists and six turnovers in Cincinnati’s highest-scoring opener since a 108-73 victory over Austin Peay in 1994.
Austin Dasent scored 14 for Savannah State, which led the nation in 3-pointers last season but couldn’t make enough down the stretch. The Tigers trailed 69-62 with 12 minutes to go, but missed 14 of their final 17 shots from beyond the arc.
“With a team like that, nobody’s safe,” said Jacob Evans III, who led Cincinnati with 19 points. “We’ve seen games like that. We wanted to play our basketball, not turn it over.”
Cincinnati responded with a 17-3 spurt that put it away.
“We had shots we were able to make, but at the end of the day, it was their size and strength,” Savannah State coach Horace Broadnax said. “They were able to create that stretch there, and then it left us scrambling again.”
Savannah State: The Tigers led the nation in 3-pointers last season, making 13.5 per game. They were 13 of 44 overall beyond the arc.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats showed their balance on offense, but had issues on defense. They allowed 40 points in a wide-open first half, with both teams finding open shots. Overall, Cincinnati dominated the boards 65-32, including 25 offensive rebounds.
Guard Jarron Cumberland was 4 of 11 for 10 points in 24 minutes. Cronin said he missed practice the last two days with a slightly sprained ankle.
Tigers guard Dexter McClanahan was named to the preseason Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference second team. He was only 3 of 11 from the field for 11 points. He averaged 16.4 points last season.
QUOTE OF THE GAME
Cronin on Clark, who became the 51st Cincinnati player to reach 1,000 career points: “He’s one of greatest kids you’ll ever coach. He’ll do some goofy stuff and drive you nuts at times, but I’m glad he’s a Bearcat. Guys like Gary Clark, you can’t help but root for them. I can only hope the good Lord thinks I’m half as good a person as Gary Clark.”
Savannah State hosts East Tennessee State on Monday night.
Cincinnati hosts Western Carolina on Monday night, the second of three straight home games before the Cayman Islands Classic.