CINCINNATI (AP) -- James White forgot about the long-range 3s and
the flashy dunks. Instead, he went back to doing what he does best.
The quick forward scored from here, there and just about
White kept it simple and got a career-high 23 points Wednesday
night, leading Cincinnati (No. 12 ESPN/USA Today, No. 15 AP) to a 77-52 victory over Saint
Louis. He also had 11 rebounds for his first career double-double.
When Saint Louis geared its defense to stop Jason Maxiell from
scoring upfront, White took advantage by finding short jumpers off
his teammates' screens.
"We took a gamble and White was the one guy we didn't count on
doing what he did," Billikens coach Brad Soderberg said.
The strategy made sense. White sat out a season after
transferring from Florida, and had been inconsistent with the
Bearcats this season because he kept forcing shots. He made only
one 3-pointer against Saint Louis, going 10-of-14 from the field.
He also played some of his minutes at point guard and had seven
assists, matching his career high.
"I just changed my game," White said. "I haven't been taking
good shots. I've been shooting too many 3s. I'm normally
comfortable making midrange shots and taking the ball to the
The Bearcats (19-5, 10-3) did just about anything they wanted to
do while piling up 77 points, the most against Saint Louis (14-10,
7-5) this season. They also dominated the boards 44-22 despite the
absence of 6-foot-10 center Robert Whaley, who quit the team on
Field Williams added 20 points and made three consecutive
3-pointers that left Saint Louis down by 20 points in the second
half, a deficit way too big to overcome.
Williams, the Bearcats' best perimeter defender, also played a
key role in shutting down guard Reggie Bryant, who is second in the
conference in scoring at 17.2 points per game.
Bryant missed six of his first seven shots as Cincinnati pulled
ahead by 20. Bryant finished 2-of-9 from the field for 10 points.
That wasn't the only problem for the Billikens, who had won
their last three games. They had only one offensive rebound in the
first half while Cincinnati took control.
"I don't often question our effort, but I questioned it
today," Soderberg said. "My initial reaction is that we got
Center Kareem Johnson had 12 rebounds for Cincinnati, which
didn't miss Whaley at all. The junior college transfer was the star
of the Bearcats' recruiting class, but left the team on Monday
because of his limited playing time.
It hardly mattered. The Bearcats dominated in rebounds 27-9 in
the first half, when they pulled ahead by 15 points. White made
good use of teammates' screens, finding open shots near the basket
as he scored 12 points in the half.
Coach Bob Huggins decided to use White at point guard -- a
position he has played sparingly this season -- because starter Nick
Williams failed to score and had only one assist in 14 minutes.
"Nick's our point guard, but James played particularly well,"
Huggins said. "I'm tired of going with guys that are not
producing. Guys that produce that day are going to play a lot of
Saint Louis is accustomed to holding down opponents' shooters --
the Billikens give up an average of 57.1 points per game, the best
mark in the conference. This time, the Billikens were the ones
struggling to make shots.
Saint Louis missed six consecutive shots midway through the
first half, helping Cincinnati go on a 13-point run. One shot was
an airball and another barely grazed the rim.
In one telling moment late in the half, Bryant forced a shot
from the left corner, and the ball smacked squarely on the side of
the backboard and shot back toward him -- the ultimate rejection.
Williams hit three consecutive 3-pointers, the second over
Bryant from the left corner, to push the lead to 50-30 early in the
second half. Saint Louis got the lead down to 11, but White hit two
jumpers and Cincinnati once again pulled away.
Saint Louis lost leading rebounder Tom Frericks when he
aggravated his injured shoulder with 9:31 left. Frericks, who
missed the Billikens' last game with a moderate shoulder
separation, had seven rebounds when he left the game in pain after
getting fouled under the basket.
Mississippi State freshman guard Malik Newman will withdraw from the NBA draft, but sources told ESPN he might explore other opportunities besides returning to Mississippi State.
Seton Hall sophomore Isaiah Whitehead will stay in the NBA draft and not return for his junior season.
Washington State's trio of Josh Hawkinson, Conor Clifford and Ike Iroegbu have withdrawn from the NBA draft and will play their senior season with the Cougars.