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Alabama St has no answer for Gates, No. 21 Cincy

Cincinnati forward Yancy Gates (34) goes up for a basket against Alabama State forward Luther Page in the first half of an NCAA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011, in Cincinnati. Cincinnati won 65-40. Cincinnati forward Yancy Gates (34) goes up for a basket against Alabama State forward Luther Page in the first half of an NCAA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011, in Cincinnati. Cincinnati won 65-40. (AP Photo/David Kohl)
November 13, 2011

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CINCINNATI—With no starters over 6-foot-6 and no player over 6-7, Alabama State coach Lewis Jackson figured his Hornets would have a problem controlling Yancy Gates.

He was right. The 6-foot-9 Cincinnati senior missed four of seven free throws but still scored 15 points and had 11 rebounds in his 14th career double-double and the No. 21 Bearcats opened their regular season with a 65-40 win over Alabama State on Sunday.

"Gates just overpowered us throughout the course of the game," Jackson said. "I think he's an outstanding player on both ends of the court, can really do some things offensively and just really dominate the ball game."

Sean Kilpatrick just missed his first career double-double with 13 points and nine rebounds to help the Bearcats improve to 18-2 in season openers at Fifth-Third Arena, where they will play their first six games this season, including Tuesday against Jacksonville State.

Dion Dixon scored 14 points and Cashmere Wright finished with 10 for Cincinnati, which led by as many as 29 points during the second half.

Jackson couldn't help but be impressed.

"Well, they're good," he said. "Their guards are tough, strong and athletic. They have big guys around the basket with a lot of size and things like that so I'm sure they're going to have an outstanding year as they did last year. They're going to be a team to reckon with in the Big East. They really dominated us in all facets of the game."

Kenderek Washington scored 18 points and Luther Page added 12 points for Alabama State (0-2), which opened the season with a 67-49 loss at Marshall on Friday. The Hornets won the Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament to earn an NCAA tournament berth last season and were picked in the coaches' preseason poll to win the championship this season.

Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin pointed out that Alabama State came in with a significant size disadvantage. Their tallest starter was the 6-6 Page.

"A very tough game for us tonight," Jackson said. "Anytime you come into a Top 25 place to play, you really have to do some things well and I thought, in the first half, we didn't do much of anything very well. We took some bad shots. We forced some shots. We didn't know when we had open shots. We wanted to be able to run our offense, to execute, to play defense and rebound the ball. I thought we did a decent job trying to get our bodies on guys, but when you're giving up six or seven inches and 30 to 40 pounds around the basket, it's difficult. I thought our guys played hard. We didn't do a lot of things well, but we need to just continue to improve game by game, day by day."

Dixon scored eight points and three other players added seven each as Cincinnati scored the first eight points of the game and opened up a 35-12 halftime lead. The Bearcats scored 13 points off of 11 Hornet turnovers to overcome a 1-for-9 performance on 3-pointers before halftime. They finished 3 for 15 from beyond the arc.

Alabama State missed 23 of its 30 first-half shots -- including all eight 3-pointers -- while mustering just 12 points, the fewest scored on the Bearcats in a half since Cronin was named coach in the 2006-07 season. The Hornets didn't reach double figures until Page scored on floater with 7:52 left in the half. They finished 3 for 21 on 3-pointers while shooting .290 (18-for-62) overall.

Sunday's game drew 4,624 fans to the 13,176-seat Fifth-Third, where the Bearcats went 9-0 against nonconference opponents last season.