CINCINNATI - Even when the opponent knows it has to hold onto the ball, Cincinnati finds ways to snatch it away.
The Bearcats forced 20 turnovers for the fourth game in a row Tuesday night and pulled away with a 21-point run in the second half, beating USC Upstate 86-50 for their most lopsided victory of the season.
Sean Kilpatrick scored 22 points and Ge'Lawn Guyn had a career-high 15 as the Bearcats (7-0) turned the Spartans' mistakes into easy points.
"We know the other team isn't just going to bow down and let us turn them over, so we've got to make everyone turn the ball over by knowing their plays and what they're going to run," Kilpatrick said. "I think we did a pretty good job of that today."
USC Upstate (5-4) opened the season with a 64-63 win at Virginia Tech and had won its last three games, allowing an average of 63 points. The Spartans also had been very good at holding onto the ball.
Not against Cincinnati's pressure defense, though. The Spartans turned it over 22 times, setting up 33 of Cincinnati's points. Ricardo Glenn led the Spartans with 12 points.
"I didn't think we'd be able to turn them over 22 times, no way," coach Mick Cronin said. "I didn't think that was possible."
USC Upstate was able to keep up for a half, but not much more.
"After about five or six minutes of the second half, we just fell apart," coach Eddie Payne said. "We got in a rush offensively and tried to do too much individual stuff and it just snowballed from there."
The Bearcats went 27 of 34 on free throws and held USC Upstate to 26 percent shooting from the field in the second half. It was an encouraging showing heading into a game on Saturday at New Mexico, which will be Cincinnati's biggest test so far.
"I thought for 40 minutes that was our best collective effort of the season," Cronin said. "We were able to wear them down physically."
The main question was whether the Spartans could handle Cincinnati's full-court pressure, which had forced 23, 28 and 20 turnovers in its last three games. USC Upstate had turned it over fewer than 10 times in each of its last three games.
The Spartans had that many in the first half alone, helping Cincinnati stay ahead most of the way.
USC Upstate turned it over twice in its first three possessions. Guyn hit a pair of unguarded 3-pointers as Cincinnati pulled ahead 10-0.
"I've been feeling good offensively all year," said Guyn, who was 3 of 4 from beyond the arc. "Coach was saying it's like laying bricks, building off practice. You have good practices and you build, you get comfortable."
The Spartans regrouped behind Torrey Craig, the Atlantic Sun's leading scorer each of the last two seasons. The senior forward had a pair of baskets that cut it to 10-8.
Craig finished with 10 points on 4-of-16 shooting, missing all of his six shots from beyond the arc.
"He's one of the top players in their league," Kilpatrick said. "We know he's the main ingredient of their offense. Being able to take that away and not let them run their sets, that's something that helped us a lot."
Kilpatrick ended the comeback by passing inside to Justin Jackson for a three-point play, making a pair of free throws and hitting a 3-pointer for an 18-8 lead.
That's how the half went, with the teams trading runs. The Bearcats led by as many as 13 but each time they'd get it to double-digits, the Spartans would sneak in a fast-break basket and trim it. Craig scored inside and Mario Blessing hit a 3-pointer that tied it at 32.
The Bearcats forced a pair of turnovers and closed the half with a 9-2 run for a 43-34 lead. The Spartans shot 50 percent from the field and dominated the boards 20-9 in the half, but had 10 turnovers that led to 16 of Cincinnati's points and made the difference.
Cincinnati intensified its half-court defense at the start of the second half. USC Upstate missed seven of its first nine shots and had five more turnovers, helping Cincinnati pull away. The Bearcats went on a 21-point run that featured a pair of 3s by Kilpatrick.