Cincinnati exposes Xavier
Injuries to three post players gave Bearcats big advantage in the paint.
CINCINNATI -- Eric Hicks and Jason Maxiell dominated Xavier's depleted front line, leading No. 21 Cincinnati to a 65-54 victory Thursday night in the city's annual crosstown grudge match.
The Bearcats (18-5) used their biggest advantage -- the one upfront -- while pulling away to only their third victory in the last nine games against the Musketeers (11-9), who had neither the size nor the experience to pull off the upset.
Hicks scored 16 points and Maxiell got the rims shaking with two emphatic dunks that helped Cincinnati take control in the second half. Maxiell finished with 15 points.
The Bearcats led by only six at halftime, then turned up the intensity with their man-to-man defense. Xavier went without a field goal for the first 81/2 minutes of the second half.
Cincinnati's defense leads the nation in forcing errant shots, holding opponents to 36.2 percent from the field.
Besides playing on its home court, Cincinnati had the advantage of a healthy front line. Three of Xavier's post players are hurt, including leading scorer and rebounder Brian Thornton.
For about a minute midway through the first half, Xavier had three freshmen on the floor.
Maxiell and Hicks, a pair of power forwards who are brawnier and more experienced than anyone on Xavier's front line, set the tone by scoring 11 of Cincinnati's first 15 points.
Thornton, who missed the last two game with severe tendinitis in his lower left leg, moved gingerly during warmups with the calf wrapped. He played for only a few minutes at a time and had limited movement. Stanley Burrell led Xavier with 12 points.
Without Thornton, Xavier was left with only one healthy post player. Xavier masked the deficiency by opening in a zone defense that worked initially. Cincinnati held a slim lead for most of the first half, but couldn't pull away.
No. 6 Wake Forest 86,North Carolina St. 75
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Justin Gray scored 18 points and Eric Williams added 15 for Wake Forest. Sixth-man Taron Downey was 4-of-4 on 3-pointers and finished with 14 points to help the Demon Deacons (20-3, 8-2 Atlantic Coast Conference). Chris Paul had 13 points, eight assists and five steals. Julius Hodge scored 27 points for the Wolfpack (13-10, 3-7).