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Bearcats Defend Fifth-Third Arena from the Explorers in a 78-60 win

by Noah Francis (Photo courtesy of Ryan Luster)

While most UC fans pondered the woes of the football team on Saturday afternoon, who struggled to find any offense in a 7-24 loss against Louisville, they could at least find plenty of offense on the court inside Fifth Third Arena.

78 points, in fact. After Victor Lakhin won the tip and proceeded to airball the first field goal attempt of the game, the scoring swiftly picked up. Lakhin had 17 points himself and four rebounds, while Davenport added 17 to the total in their 18-point win (78-60) over the Explorers. This afternoon marked the first time this season that all five starters scored double digits.

On the La Salle side, Josh Nickelberry kept his team in the game for much of the first half, scoring 15 points on the stingy Bearcat's defense. Nickelberry stepped back on consecutive possessions and quickly found the bottom of the net to start the game.

Despite Nickelberry’s performance, UC responded defensively and held the Explorers to a slim 28.6% field goal percentage in the first 20 minutes. Moreover, coach Frank Dunphy’s teams do not commit turnovers historically and La Salle is ranked #1 in the A-10 conference for both turnovers per game (11.7) and turnover margin (1.7). Tonight, the Explorers had 12 in the first half and finished with 25.

Then, La Salle applied pressure to slow down the explosive bursts from Davenport and DeJulius, who combined for 21 points in the first half. However, UC pulled away gradually as the half dragged on and entered halftime with a 40-23 lead.

La Salle got out to an 8-0 run to start the second half and found their way back into the game. After a quick timeout, Miller’s team settled in and stretched the lead back to 22. From there, it was all UC as their lead never wavered below 10 points.

Skillings, Jr. Sets the Tone:

There was a sequence around the 11-minute mark in the second half where Dan Skillings Jr. repeatedly defended the rim. After three blocks in the paint on back-to-back possessions, Dan Skillings Jr. was assessed with a technical foul after his fourth block attempt in three possessions after the play was deemed a foul by the referee and prompted Skillings to talk back. When asked about it post-game, he said, "Coach put me on a player and said 'I don't want him scoring' so I just got after it." Skillings's 3 blocks contributed to the team's 38 deflections in the game.

The 258 points the Bearcats have scored this past week (including 103 vs. Miami, 77 vs. Xavier) and overall boosted offense aren’t the only two things trending in the upward direction though. On Wednesday, Cincinnati announced that Wes Miller would receive a two-year contract extension and an increased salary through the 2028-2029 season. The nation’s winningest coach under 40 years old earned his 211th win against La Salle on Saturday.

La Salle goes under .500 with a 5-6 record as they face Lafayette in the second of five consecutive games that begin at 2 pm on Wednesday.

The 8-4 Bearcats will now look to finish non-conference play against Detroit Mercy on Wednesday, December 21st at 7 pm (ESPN+). Check back with the 48 Minutes Network to read the game recap articles and follow along on social media to see game images and video recaps!

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