CINCINNATI (AP) -- James White led a last-minute comeback that
sent it to overtime Saturday, and Cincinnati pulled away to a 79-75
victory over Murray State in the Bearcats' first game since Bob
Huggins was ousted as coach.
With the Bearcats (1-0) in danger of losing their home opener
for the first time in 40 years, the senior forward took charge. He
made a three-point play with 45 seconds to go, then stripped Trey
Pearson for a tying layup with 5.8 seconds left as Murray State
(0-1) failed to run down the clock.
White's bank shot opened the overtime and gave the Bearcats
their first lead since the 13:33 mark of the second half. He
finished with a game-high 18 points.
Only 8,088 fans -- roughly 5,000 below capacity -- showed up for
Cincinnati's first regular-season game without Huggins, who was
ousted in August by school president Nancy Zimpher. Fans in the
student section booed when Zimpher's name was mentioned over the
public address system during a pregame welcoming message.
Zimpher got rid of Huggins because she didn't like the program's
image -- players getting in trouble off the court. A little more
than an hour before tipoff, Cincinnati announced that senior point
guard Chadd Moore would sit out the first five games for playing in
a summer league without clearance.
Instead, two of Huggins' former assistants ran the game.
Interim Bearcats coach Andy Kennedy got a pregame visit from
Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson, who then took his customary seat
across from the Cincinnati bench. He also got a handshake from
Murray State coach Mick Cronin, who was Huggins' top assistant
Kennedy wants the Bearcats to play a more uptempo game, looking
for fastbreaks whenever possible. When the Racers took the
fastbreak away, Cincinnati struggled to hit shots.
Power forward Eric Hicks, the Bearcats' best front-line scoring
threat, went to the bench in with a bloody nose. Murray State,
picked as the Ohio Valley Conference's preseason favorite, kept it
close until he returned midway through the first half.
Hicks scored on a fastbreak dunk, a turnaround jumper and a pair
of free throws, putting Cincinnati up 22-16. The Bearcats'
trademark man-to-man defense then dug in, helping them push the
lead to 10.
Pearson, the preseason pick as the OVC's player of the year,
missed his first six shots. He made three free throws in the
closing minute of the half, helping Murray State close to 35-33.
Pearson asserted himself in the second half, helping Murray
State pull ahead by as many as eight points. He finished with 18
points overall on 4-of-12 shooting, hitting all eight of his free
Maryland point guard Melo Trimble, considered a lock to leave the program before struggling in the second half last season, has withdrawn from the NBA draft and will return for his junior season.
Louisville's Chinanu Onuaku, who recently underwent a medical procedure to correct a heart rhythm issue detected during the combine, will keep his name in the NBA draft pool.
Andrew White III will return to the Nebraska men's basketball team next season after removing his name from the NBA draft.
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