CINCINNATI – Before the tip-off, several members of the Mississippi Valley State staff introduced themselves to Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson, who was seated courtside. One took out his cellphone and had someone take a photo.
That was the highlight of the night for the Delta Devils.
Sean Kilpatrick scored 13 of his 20 points in the second half and Cheikh Mbodj had four of Cincinnati's seven blocks, leading the 24th-ranked Bearcats to a 102-60 victory on Tuesday night.
Davon Usher and Darryl Marshall scored 13 points apiece for MVSU (0-2), which returned one player — reserve Blake Ralling — from a team that won the Southwestern Athletic Conference regular season and tournament titles last season. Coach Sean Woods left for Morehead State, replaced by top assistant Chico Potts.
The Delta Devils lost their opener 93-57 at Mississippi, the start of an 11-game opening stretch on the road. Mississippi Valley State won't play at home until Jan. 6.
The trip is off to a rough start.
"I have all new players," Potts said. "Right now, I am just trying to get this team together. The thing that I just let my guys know is to be positive, to be more upbeat. I told them about last year's team. We started out 1-11 before we ran off 17 straight to win our conference. We've just got to keep working."
The Bearcats (2-0) took control with a 23-4 run in the first half that featured a pair of 3-pointers by Cashmere Wright. The point guard had all of his 11 points and three assists in the take-control half. Then, it was a matter of whether Cincinnati's bench could keep it going. The reserves did their part, scoring 45 points.
"I'm really happy with the fact that we got 45 points off our bench tonight," coach Mick Cronin said. "They know we have a style and a system we've been building since last spring to try to have a great team this year.
"A big part of that is our guys know that depth was an issue (last season). Our veteran guys understand you've got to have quality play off the bench if you're going to be an elite team."
JaQuon Parker added 13 points for the Bearcats, who shot 53.7 percent and dominated the boards by a 2-to-1 margin.
"That's unheard of," Potts said of the rebounding margin. "We've got to do a better job of being tough and doing the small things like blocking out. Wanting to get a rebound takes a little more effort, but that's what one of the key things that I am preaching — effort. Don't ever put forth less than maximum effort. Give me all you got until you get tired, then I can get you out of the game.
"They destroyed us on rebounding. That is the most discouraging thing for me because everything else we can deal with."
The 102 points were Cincinnati's most since a 105-69 win over North Carolina A&T on Dec. 30, 2005, under interim coach Andy Kennedy.
The Bearcats opened the season with an 80-57 win over Tennessee-Martin. They were a little sloppy and the bench wasn't as good in that one.
"Now that we know what our second unit, what our bench can do against other teams, I feel a little better than I did the other game," Kilpatrick said.
Mississippi Valley State kept it close for a few minutes, taking advantage of Cincinnati's opening cold spell. Usher's 3-pointer cut the Bearcats' lead to 14-10.
Cincinnati went on a 23-4 run behind Wright, who made a pair of long 3s and a pull-up jumper. Wright also had the most impressive play of the opening half, a behind-the-back pass to Justin Jackson for a fast-break dunk. Wright had 16 points in the opening win on Sunday.
The Bearcats led 43-23 at the half, which they dominated on the glass 32-16. The Delta Devils shot only 29.4 percent from the field.
At halftime, Cincinnati football coach Butch Jones did a little lobbying, telling fans that it's "time to step up" and attend a game on Saturday at Nippert Stadium against No. 22 Rutgers. The Bearcats have struggled to draw crowds to their 35,000-seat football stadium even though they're in the race for a fourth league title in five years.
Jones told the fans that when the game is over Saturday there will be only one ranked team, and it "will be the team wearing the C-paw in red and black."
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