CINCINNATI (AP) -- Eric Hicks had a breakout game in an offense
determined to get him the ball, scoring a season-high 19 points
Saturday night during Cincinnati's 105-62 victory over Tennessee
Tech in the first round of the Las Vegas Holiday Classic.
Hicks has been the focus of opposing defenses all season because
the Bearcats lack another proven scoring threat under the basket.
Until Saturday night, the power forward struggled to merely find a
His teammates made sure he got plenty against Tennessee Tech
(6-2), the defending Ohio Valley Conference regular-season
champion. Hicks made six of his first seven shots, scoring 13
points during an opening 19-9 run that sent the Bearcats (6-2)
toward their most lopsided victory of the season.
When the Golden Eagles finally slowed Hicks with their zone
defense, his teammates took advantage -- five players finished in
double figures. It was Cincinnati's highest score since a 105-57
win over Tulane on Jan. 29, 2001.
Freshman point guard Devan Downey added 16 points and nine
assists for Cincinnati, which has rounded into form during the past
eight days with increasingly lopsided wins over Vanderbilt, Ohio
and Tennessee Tech.
Anthony Fisher scored 16 for Tennessee Tech, which shot only
32.3 percent from the field.
The Las Vegas Holiday Classic is an exempt tournament played at
regional sites for the first two rounds. The tournament concludes
with games next week in Las Vegas.
The game represented another milestone for Tennessee Tech coach
Mike Sutton, who is recovering from an inflammatory nerve disorder
that left him paralyzed last spring. Sutton, 49, attended his first
road game of the season, getting around the court in a motorized
During pregame warmups, Sutton backed his chair into an opening
next to the scorer's table, the spot reserved for head coaches. He
talked throughout the game with associate head coach Steve Payne,
who is running the team.
Sutton's first game as the Golden Eagles' head coach also was in
Cincinnati, a 72-63 loss that opened the 2002-03 season.
The crowd of 7,011 was the smallest yet for one of Cincinnati's
games this season. The Bearcats haven't come close to filling their
13,176-seat arena since Bob Huggins was ousted as coach in August.
The Bearcats needed time to get comfortable in the fastbreak
approach installed by interim coach Andy Kennedy. They did
everything they wanted against the Golden Eagles, who never
recovered from the opening run.
Hicks set the tone by hitting a turnaround bank shot on the
first possession. Downey, Chadd Moore and James White passed inside
to Hicks for baskets during the 19-9 spurt. Downey, coming off a
24-point performance against Ohio, kept the offense rolling with
another solid game -- seven rebounds to go with his 16 points in
only 28 minutes.