CINCINNATI -- Using a different lineup that reflected change in the works, Cincinnati settled down at the end of a rough week.
Lance Stephenson scored 19 points and led a first-half run that put the Bearcats (No. 25 AP) in control Saturday, setting up an 80-52 victory over Lipscomb.The Bearcats (7-3) had lost their last two games and knew this would be their final one as a ranked team for some time. After a poor start, Stephenson got them going, scoring 11 points during an 18-4 run that put the Bearcats in control.Stephenson, a freshman who is Cincinnati's most highly regarded recruit in years, has scored 17, 22, 8 and 19 points in the last four games."He's getting more adjusted to the college game and how fast the game is going," senior guard Deonta Vaughn said. "He's getting into his groove, letting it come to him more. He's just being Lance. Everybody knows Lance is going to score."Lipscomb (4-6) fell to 0-4 all-time against ranked teams. Adnan Hodzic scored 18 points for the Bisons, who came into the game averaging 78.8 points, eighth-best nationally. It was Hodzic's 37th straight game in double figures, the longest active streak in the nation.Cincinnati's tight man-to-man defense held the Bisons to their lowest scoring total of the season. The previous low was 64 points.The Bearcats moved into the Top 25 three weeks ago, their first appearance in the rankings in four years. Then, they fell apart. A double-overtime loss at crosstown rival Xavier on Sunday -- a physical game full of technical fouls and taunting -- seemed to carry over three days later at UAB, where the Bearcats lost 64-47.Coach Mick Cronin acknowledged that his team didn't handle the attention as a ranked team very well."A little bit, no question about that," Cronin said. "All coaches would like to take their team to a deserted island with no cell phone coverage. It would be easier to coach."That's part of it. The other part of it is the schedule. We were demoralized. Our guys took the Xavier loss too hard. Bad scheduling to go to UAB the way we did. We learned a tough lesson from it."The mood fit the moment when the Bearcats returned home.When they beat Texas Southern on Dec. 1 -- their first home game as a ranked team this season -- Cronin complained about the lack of fan support. Cincinnati sold only 6,825 tickets for that one, leaving the arena half-empty.In their first home-court game since, the Bearcats didn't see any more support. There were only five students in the section behind their basket when they came out to warm up 28 minutes before the tip-off. They sold 6,647 tickets for the game.Like at UAB, the Bearcats started poorly and fell behind. They opened the game by going 6:21 without a field goal, missing their first six shots while turning it over three times against one of the nation's worst defenses. Six of Lipscomb's 10 opponents have shot better than 50 percent from the field.Stephenson finally got them going during the 18-4 run. Most of his baskets came off one-on-one moves against a defender. The Bearcats led 35-24 at halftime, when Stephenson and Dion Dixon each had 13 points."In the last four, five, six minutes of the first half, we missed some easy ones and that affected our energy level," Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson said. "They score more of their points off broken plays or turnovers or rebounds. We wanted to make them have to score in halfcourt offense, and for 12 or 13 minutes we did that."Cincinnati started the second half with a 7-0 run that pushed the lead to 18 points. The Bearcats were never challenged again.Cronin made several notable lineup changes. He benched point guard Cashmere Wright, who had been 1 for 9 from the field in the last two games. He finally got into the game with 13:40 left and Cincinnati up by 20. He had four assists but didn't score.Forward Yancy Gates played only 4 minutes and didn't take a shot."I'm trying to make adjustments to get our team ready to win in the Big East," Cronin said. "So any adjustments you see me making are to give ourselves a lineup on the floor that can execute on offense and get defensive stops. Just because they didn't start today doesn't mean they won't start again."