By Taylor Bergfeld
The Wes Miller Era is off to a fantastic start as the Cincinnati Bearcats defeat #14 Illinois 71-51 in the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City. The Bearcats were led by Mike Saunders Jr who added 20 points and Jeremiah Davenport who chipped in with 19 of his own. The Bearcats erased an early 15 point deficit, Coach Miller challenged his team to rely on their defensive principles, and the Bearcats responded by taking a 3 point lead into halftime. The biggest challenge for the Bearcats was the season debut of Kofi Cockburn for Illinois, the preseason All-American looked dominant in the early stages of the game. So much so, that Coach Miller had to make adjustments at the under 12 media timeout to double the post and have his guys become more physical in the paint. The most shocking part of the night was how the Bearcats looked on the offensive end. Illinois was the nation's top-rated defensive team coming into tonight's contest, the Bearcats guards used their quickness and ball-handling skills to drive to the hoop for easy baskets. While Saunders was fantastic off the bench for the Bearcats the real star was Jeremiah Davenport the Junior was 4/8 from 3 point land including two back to back 3's at the start of the second half. The Bearcats held the Illini scoreless on their first 10 shot attempts of the second half, causing Trent Fraizer and Andre Curbelo to become frustrated. The Illini guards settled on tough jump shots against the Bearcat defense, resulting in a lot of fast-break opportunities for the Cats. Coach Miller continues to drive home the importance of having a deep bench, the Bearcats used their bench to coast to a 20 point victory, their first ranked win since December of 2019. "We haven't arrived just yet," said Coach Miller after the win, he believes that the best version of this team has yet to be seen. Bearcat fans have all the right in the world to be excited, as Miller continues to prove why he was the right man for the job. The Bearcats will take on either Arkansas on Tuesday at 9:00 pm in the championship game.