CINCINNATI -- Deonta Vaughn's four fabulous minutes were enough for Cincinnati.
Vaughn led a crushing first-half run, and the Bearcats had one of their best games from behind the 3-point arc Thursday night, setting up a 75-63 victory over Mississippi State in the first of two games matching the Big East and Southeastern conferences.
Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury made the trip despite being hospitalized earlier in the week for a viral infection. He had a look of anguish on his face as the Bulldogs got shredded in the first half.
Cincinnati (8-2) made a season-high 12 3-pointers, nine in the first half against Mississippi State's zone defense. Vaughn had four 3s during the run that made the difference.
"They're kind of streaky," Stansbury said. "They didn't make very many in the first 13 or 14 minutes. They finished the half with four or five in the last five minutes. That's what happens when you get on a roll like that. That's not unusual for him."
Jarvis Varnado scored a career-high 24 points for Mississippi State (7-4).
One of the Big East's best shooting guards took over the game long enough to make a difference.
Vaughn led the 20-2 run that closed the first half and put the Bearcats ahead 47-29. Vaughn made four 3-pointers and a driving bank shot in the spurt, scoring 14 points in 4 minutes. He finished with 16 points and six assists.
"We came out in a zone and they hit some tough shots," Mississippi State guard Barry Stewart said. "We weren't contesting them."
The lead reached 22 early in the second half, when Mississippi State went to a man-to-man defense and got back in the game. Cincinnati opened the second half 2-for-9 from the field with four turnovers.
Varnado led a 12-point run that cut the deficit to 55-48 midway through the second half, but the Bulldogs got no closer.
Freshman Dion Dixon scored a season-high 14 points for Cincinnati, hitting a couple of 3-pointers that blunted the comeback.
"I think I'm starting to get into the flow," said Dixon, who was 0-for-8 from the field in his last game. "I'm being more aggressive on offense."
The Bearcats opened the game by getting the ball inside to their bulkier players and letting them muscle in against Varnado, who leads the team in points and rebounds and is one of the nation's best shot blockers. He especially had trouble against Yancy Gates, a 260-pound forward who outweighed him by 50 pounds. Gates finished with 12 points and nine rebounds.
"He did a great job of putting his body into me," Varnado said.
That was Cincinnati's plan for its plodding offense, which has been too reliant on Vaughn to pull it through.
"Once Yancy got working inside early, it opened up shots from the outside," Vaughn said.
With Stewart covering Vaughn in the second half, Cincinnati's top scorer found few open shots. Whenever the Bulldogs closed in, someone else made a shot that kept it from becoming a back-and-forth game.
"That was great for my blood pressure and what little hair I have left, because Deonta didn't really have it going tonight," Bearcats coach Mick Cronin said.