Updated at: 12/06/2012 7:35 PM
By JOE KAY
(AP) CINCINNATI - Sean Kilpatrick scored 10 of his 18 points in the second half, and No. 11 Cincinnati set a school record with 23 steals Thursday night, emerging from a sloppy start for an 87-53 victory over Arkansas-Little Rock.
The Bearcats (8-0) started with eight straight wins for the 15th time in school history and the second time in three seasons.
Playing with their highest ranking since they were No. 11 at end of 2003-04, the Bearcats threw the ball away early, prompting coach Mick Cronin to substitute for all five starters. Cincinnati was coming off attention-getting wins over Iowa State and Oregon followed by a 58-56 victory over Alabama on Cashmere Wright’s fadeaway at the buzzer on Saturday.
Despite their early sloppiness, the Bearcats quickly wore down the Trojans (7-4), who had a season-high 32 turnovers, 18 in the opening half alone. Cincinnati’s steals topped the previous school record by three.
Cheikh Mbodj had 12 points and seven rebounds for Cincinnati, which finished with four players in double figures. Shaquille Thomas had the record-setting 21st steal and a dunk with 6:11 to go.
Will Neighbour, Ben Dillard and James White scored 10 apiece for Arkansas-Little Rock.
The teams combined for 54 field goals and 49 turnovers.
The Trojans have started freshman John Gillon at point guard the last nine games. He struggled against the unrelenting pressure, turning the ball over eight times. Junior shooting guard Leroy Isler had seven turnovers.
Playing against a badly overmatched opponent for the first time in the last four games, the Bearcats lacked focus at the outset, throwing the ball away five times before the 15:55 mark. Cronin benched all of his starters. At one point, he yelled at one of his players on the court: "What don’t you understand?"
The lineup change got their attention. Cincinnati had only two more turnovers the rest of the half while pulling away to a 42-17 lead. The Bearcats extended their pressure defense full-court and got the Trojans so flustered that they repeatedly threw the ball away on fast-break chances.
Cincinnati’s offense finally got going when JaQuon Parker returned and hit two 3s _ Cincinnati’s first of the game _ during a 12-point run that built the lead to 25-8.
The Trojans had trouble getting the ball across midcourt in the closing minutes of the half, fueling another surge. Arkansas-Little Rock had 18 turnovers and was 8 of 25 from the field in the half.
Cronin kept on his players all game, stomping his foot on the court to get their attention and growing angry over every mistake.
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(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)