CINCINNATI – Jason James wasn't fooled by the scoreboard.
Sure, the Tennessee-Martin coach saw his Skyhawks outscore No. 24 Cincinnati in the second half Sunday, helped by Dee Oldham's desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer.
That didn't overshadow a deficit that reached as many as 36 points before Cincinnati settled for an 80-57 win in its season opener.
"It's hard to find solace when you get beat by 23," James said. "We played hard in the second half. The refs counted that last 3, so we were able to outscore them, but I don't think we outplayed them. We executed better in the second half. In the first half, we weren't able to knock shots down."
Jeremy Washington, who scored 10 points in Tennessee-Martin's season-opening 84-69 loss at Arkansas-Little Rock on Friday, led the Skyhawks (0-2) with 15 points. Myles Taylor and Mike Liabo each had 12 points while Justin Childs chipped in with 10.
Cashmere Wright scored 16 points and Sean Kilpatrick added 14 for Cincinnati.
Eleven different players scored for Cincinnati. The Bearcats dominated inside, leading 54-31 in rebounds, paced by Justin Jackson's game-high 11.
The Bearcats also blocked 10 shots and limited the Skyhawks to 28 percent shooting overall.
"Big and bigger," James said. "They played with a sense of urgency. I've known (Bearcats coach Mick Cronin) for a few years and he's finally getting the kind of guys in here he wants — tough and physical, guys who play with an edge — and when they play with a sense of urgency, they're pretty good. I think you saw that today."
The game drew 5,728. A couple of miles south, the Cincinnati Bengals hosted the New York Giants and beat the Super Bowl champions 31-13.
Cincinnati opens the season with four straight home games against unranked opponents, with Mississippi Valley State visiting on Tuesday. Last season, the Bearcats reached their first-ever Big East tournament championship game and made it to the NCAA's round of 16 for the first time since 2001.
The Bearcats improved to 91-21 in season openers, including 80-10 at home. Cincinnati has won 47 of its last 48 season openers at home, the only loss coming to Belmont 86-75 in the 2007-2008 tip-off.
The win was the 114th for Bearcats' coach Mick Cronin, snapping a tie with Ed Jucker for fifth place on the program's career coaching wins list. Cronin, starting his seventh year at his alma mater, is 114-88. Jucker guided Cincinnati to NCAA championships in 1961 and 1962.
"He's got two I don't have," Cronin said, referring to the titles. "Let's not put me in that class. His name's on the court. If you can find any way to put my name in the same sentence with Ed Jucker's, I'd appreciate it."
The Bearcats are honoring All-American and longtime NBA star Jack Twyman by wearing a patch on their uniforms with his No. 27. Twyman, who played in the mid-1950s, died in May.
Washington scored the game's first two points, giving Tennessee-Martin its only lead 1:04 into the game before Cincinnati took control with a 14-0 run capped by Ge'lawn Guyn's 3-pointer with 13 minutes left in the first half.
The Bearcats later took advantage of a Skyhawks' 6:36 scoring drought to run off 17 unanswered points, building their largest lead of the half at 33-6.