SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Troy Caupain scored 23 points, Kyle Washington added 16 and defensive-minded Cincinnati shot it way past Kansas State 75-61 Friday night in the South Region of the NCAA Tournament.
Cincinnati (30-5) was knocked out the first round a year ago and No. 6 seeds were 0-3 before the Bearcats took the floor, with Maryland, Creighton and SMU all losing to No. 11 seeds.
The Bearcats took care of their business and the No. 6 jinx with an impressive shooting display, shooting 62 percent. Cincinnati is known for its defense and did that, too, preventing Kansas State (21-14) from making much of a run after building a 17-point lead.
The Bearcats now move on to play the winner between No. 3 seed UCLA and No. 14 Kent State on Sunday.
Wesley Iwundu led Kansas State with 19 points.
Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin was not pleased with his team’s seeding nor the travel all the way to California to play its opening game.
Kansas State had an even tougher trip, having two days between games after traveling from Dayton to Sacramento following a 95-88 win over Wake Forest in the First Four.
The Wildcats has to switch gears quickly in style of play, too. While Wake Forest likes to play at a fast pace, the Bearcats have the nation’s fourth-stingiest scoring defense at 60.4 points allowed per game.
Cincinnati was solid defensively, as expected but the offense stole the show early. The Bearcats hit their first eight shots to go up 9 midway through the first half and only slowed slightly.
Caupain made all five of his shots to score 14 points and Cincinnati hit 15 of 23 to lead 39-28.
Kansas State made a run at the Bearcats early in the second half, cutting the lead to 6.
The Bearcats pushed the lead back to 13 behind their offense and with a tightened-up defense after those early baskets by Kansas State. Cincinnati made 12 of 20 shots in the second half.
Kansas State returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years, but will have to replace three key seniors to get back: D.J. Johnson, Iwundu and Carlbe Ervin II.
Cincinnati was fourth nationally in scoring defense during the season and will be a tough out the rest of the tournament if it keeps shooting like this.