Bearcats beat Jacksonville State 73-59

CINCINNATI (AP) - Dion Dixon scored 16 of his 20 points in the first half, shooting over Jacksonville State's undersized zone defense, and the 20th-ranked Bearcats weathered a sluggish second half for a 73-59 victory Tuesday night.

Cincinnati (2-0) opened with a 26-9 run behind Dixon's 3-point shooting. He finished 4 of 8 behind the arc, where the Bearcats went 8 of 12 overall. Cashmere Wright had 23 points.

Jacksonville State (1-2) got 16 points apiece from Brian Williams and Mason Leggett. The Gamecocks have only one player as tall as 6-foot-7 and had to pack in a zone defense to keep up.

The Bearcats were coming off a 65-40 win over Alabama State on Sunday night that highlighted their defense. They gave up only 14 points in the first half, and the 40 overall were the third-fewest allowed in coach Mick Cronin's six seasons.

They were much sloppier against Jacksonville State, turning the ball over 20 times. After pulling ahead 44-21 at halftime, they allowed the Gamecocks to go on a 15-1 run in the second half and eventually get the lead down to 10 points.

The Bearcats went 6 minutes, 8 seconds without scoring early in the second half, a drought ended by Yancy Gates' dunk. Stephen Hall's 3-pointer cut it to 67-57 with 1:50 left, the closest the Gamecocks could get.

Cincinnati was ranked in the preseason poll for the first time since 2003. The Bearcats are easing into a favorable nonconference schedule in preparation for the Big East grind, a strategy that worked last season. The Bearcats reached the NCAA tournament in March for the first time since 2005 and are expecting to get back there again with their deepest team under Cronin.

Jacksonville State is coming off a 5-25 season that led to big changes. The Gamecocks returned only four players, including lone senior Hall. The roster includes seven transfers and four freshmen.

Their biggest challenge was up front. Jacksonville State has only four players as tall as 6-foot-6 and had to play zone defense to give itself a chance. Dixon's outside shooting helped the Bearcats take control right away. He hit three 3s in the opening 26-9 spurt - the Gamecocks were only 4 of 16 from the field with five turnovers during that stretch.

Dixon hit four 3s in the first half, all from the right wing, all of them with plenty of room to shoot.

Gates ended the half with a shot that pleased the crowd of 4,542, hitting a 3 from the right wing at the buzzer for the Bearcats' biggest lead to that point. Gates, who had a double-double in the opener, finished with 9 points and 8 rebounds.

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