CINCINNATI (AP) — John Brannen’s first win at Cincinnati was no big deal.
The Bearcats had a low-key celebration in the locker room after their 81-59 victory over Drake on Monday night that displayed their new up-tempo offense under their first-year head coach.
“We clapped it up, that’s about it,” center Chris Vogt said. “Nothing too crazy.”
It’s how Brannen wanted it after his first win in the Bearcats’ arena.
“I was really appreciative of the players,” Brannen said. “Head coaches get too much credit, probably too much blame at the same time.”
Jarron Cumberland scored all of his 11 points in the first half as Cincinnati (1-1) took control quickly, looking much better the second time around. The Bearcats struggled offensively during an opening nine-point loss at Ohio State, going 4 of 21 from beyond the arc.
Against Drake, they made the most of a wide-open style installed by Brannen, who came from Northern Kentucky. Brannen replaced Mick Cronin , a defense-oriented coach who went to UCLA after a first-round loss in the NCAA Tournament.
“I think our offense finally looked like it had a little more pace tonight,” Brannen said. “I thought we took a step forward.”
Cincinnati opened a 26-point lead in the first half, when it went 8 of 16 from beyond the arc. Cumberland led the way with 11 points, making three of his four shots from beyond the arc. Cumberland played only 4 minutes in the second half as Brannen turned to his bench.
Cumberland’s cousin, Jaevin , added 17 points as they combined to go 8 of 14 from beyond the arc.
“We go at each other sometimes, who can shoot the best,” Jaevin said.
Vogt had 12 points and three rebounds. The 7-foot-1 center played for Brannen at Northern Kentucky and got an NCAA waiver to play at Cincinnati this season. Vogt knows Brannen’s system the best and has quickly become the player that teammates turn to for advice.
“It kind of surprised me how consistent he’s been from last year to this year,” Vogt said. “I thought he might change something up or try new stuff.”
Drake (1-1) relies on 3s but couldn’t find many open ones. The Bulldogs matched their school record with 17 3s during an 86-55 win over Kennesaw State, but went only 4 of 19 against Cincinnati. Liam Robbins led the Bulldogs with 12 points and seven rebounds.
Drake has been one of the nation’s most prolific 3-point shooting teams the last few seasons, which was the focus of Cincinnati’s man-to-man defense. D.J. Wilkins hit an open 3 from the corner to start the game, but Cincinnati clamped down and the Bulldogs missed eight of their next nine shots from beyond the arc while falling behind by 20 points.
Cincinnati is 26-2 in home openers at its current arena, with one of the losses coming last season when Ohio State won the first game in the refurbished arena.
Cincinnati and Drake played regularly as members of the Missouri Valley Conference until 1970. Cincinnati leads the series 23-8. They hadn’t played since Jan. 23, 1974, when Cincinnati won at Drake 73-67.
NOT ENOUGH POINTS
Drake led the MVC in scoring last season at 75.4 points per game. The Bulldogs return three starters from the team that shared the regular-season title, but had trouble getting good shots against the much taller Bearcats. Drake shot 35.5 percent overall.
BETTER VANTAGE POINT
Vogt was part of the Northern Kentucky team that made the short trip across the Ohio River and got drubbed at Cincinnati last season.
“The energy in the arena was crazy the whole night,” Vogt said. “It’s great to be on this side for once rather than the opposing side.”
Drake hosts Kansas City on Wednesday.
Cincinnati hosts Alabama A&M on Thursday.
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