Michael Porter Jr. came up one block short of a triple-double and ninth-ranked Cincinnati cruised to a 71-51 win over Illinois on Saturday, silencing the noisy din of the Ponds & Friends Center.
Porter, returning from a 21-game absence because of stress-fracture surgery, finished with 20 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. His fellow freshman point guard Jordan Nwora added 19 points and fellow freshman Jarron Cumberland chipped in 17 points and five assists for the Bearcats (26-6, 14-4 American Athletic Conference).
Cincinnati raced out to a 16-3 lead to start the game. John Mooney answered with a driving basket to pull the Illini within two at 16-13, but Cincinnati answered with nine straight points.
Cinevieve Welsh got things going for the Illini (14-17, 4-14) with a 3-pointer at the 6:07 mark of the first half, but that was as close as they would get. The Bearcats used a 12-2 run to take a 28-12 lead at the break.
The Bearcats used a 10-0 run to open the second half, took their biggest lead to that point at 42-24.
Porter needed seven shots to get to his 20 points. He missed his first five before drilling his sixth. He also went 5 for 7 from the free-throw line.
Alumni members from Ohio State and Michigan State were on hand to see seventh-ranked Ohio State’s 6-foot-7 forward Keita Bates-Diop play. Bates-Diop was surrounded by a cauldron of noise the first few minutes after his name was announced.