Freshmen lead way for No. 19 Bearcats in second straight victory

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin won't let Lance Stephenson talk to the media until Monday. The heralded freshman couldn't wait that long to make a statement.

Stephenson scored a season-high 17 points and fellow freshman Cashmere Wright added 12 as No. 19 Cincinnati held off Miami (Ohio) for a 63-59 victory Thursday night.

"I just came in and played off whatever the defense gave me," said Wright, who missed last season with a knee injury and scored one point in the first half. "I kept making shots."

The Bearcats (6-1) won their second straight game after their first loss of the season, 61-59 in overtime against Gonzaga on Nov. 25. Cincinnati, which has won 11 straight in the in-state series, hadn't played since beating Texas Southern 94-57 on Dec. 1.

"We looked a little sluggish," Cronin said. "Our execution wasn't there. Part of that was because of Miami's defense. They expose your weaknesses. This was a good game for us."

Kenny Hayes had 19 points for Miami, while Nick Winbush and Julian Mavunga each added 13. The RedHawks (2-7) have lost three straight and were playing the second of three games in six days.

The loss reminded Hayes of Miami's two-point loss at No. 4 Kentucky in the second game of the season.

"We have to get over this hump," Hayes said. "We've come so close, and we let it go at the end. We almost beat the 19th team in the country. It doesn't count for anything. We're hanging with them, but we're just not beating them."

Stephenson's previous high was 16 points in a 92-68 win over Toledo in the second game of the season on Nov. 18. Wright matched the season-high 12 points he scored in a 69-62 season-opening win over Prairie View A&M two days earlier.

There were scattered boos early in the first half when a photo of former Bearcats football coach Brian Kelly was shown on the videoboard, which was showing the telecast of the game. Kelly left Cincinnati on Thursday to take over at Notre Dame.

Stephenson had 10 points and six rebounds as the Bearcats took a 24-23 halftime lead after holding a nine-point lead with 10:17 left.

Cincinnati opened a 39-30 on a 3-pointer by Larry Davis with 14:18 left in the game, but Miami again fought back to trim the lead to two twice while Wright was scoring six straight points to personally hold off the RedHawks and impress Miami coach Charlie Coles.

"I thought the difference in the game was the little guard out front," Coles said about the 6-foot Wright, adding with a smile, "He's going to be good because of his name -- Cashmere. My mother and father should have named me something like that."

Cincinnati never trailed after Wright's free throw gave it a 7-6 lead with 13:45 left in the first half.