CINCINNATI — With its top two front-line players suspended, Cincinnati had to reinvent itself overnight into a guard-driven offense.
A triple-digit game showed how well it's working.
Point guard Cashmere Wright scored a career-high 25 points, and Cincinnati won its second straight game with two starters suspended, beating Radford 101-70 on Saturday with a group effort that featured a lot of energy.
"You can tell we're doing more things as a team right now," Wright said. "We're trying to build a team bond. The confidence in everybody is kind of rising up right now.
"At a time where everybody was looking for us to fall apart, I think that's the best thing to do. We've got to group together and just play."
The Bearcats (7-3) opened with a 12-point run and kept going against the Highlanders (3-9), who have lost eight in a row and couldn't keep up in any way with the Bearcats' new wide-open offense.
"They were extremely aggressive," Radford coach Mike Jones said. "I actually like the way they're playing now more than before. They're even better when they spread the court and drive with the athletic, aggressive guards they have."
There was no drama to Cincinnati's first home game since its loss at Xavier that ended in a brawl a week earlier. Each school suspended four players, handing out punishments ranging from one to six games.
The Bearcats were missing power forward Yancy Gates and center Cheikh Mbodj, serving the second of their six-game suspensions. Reserve point guard Ge'Lawn Guyn was back after a one-game penalty and scored five points.
Jareal Smith had 22 points for Radford. Cincinnati scored 100 points for the first time since Dec. 30, 2005, when it beat North Carolina A&T 105-69 under interim coach Andy Kennedy.
The 4,771 fans saw a reinvented Cincinnati offense that encourages players to take any open shot. So far, against two overmatched teams, it has worked.
Cronin lectured his players after the brawl about how they need to appreciate the opportunity to represent their university, taking away their jerseys after the game to make his point.
"I think right now we're playing like we appreciate the opportunity and appreciate the scholarship and we're trying to show people what we're all about," Cronin said. "We have to maintain that. That's our advantage right now."
So is having their junior point guard playing his best stretch of the season.
Wright scored only four points and had two turnovers in the 23-point drubbing against Xavier. He has scored 12 and 25 in the last two games, taking more of a leadership role with Gates — a senior power forward — on suspension.
"Not that I couldn't do it," Wright said. "I felt like it's his team. Right now, I still feel it's his team. I'm just holding it until he gets back. I've got to right the ship until he gets here and can do his thing."
Cronin has been urging Wright to be more of a leader.
"As long as he continues to give us that type of leadership and command our team in that way, the sky's the limit for our team," Cronin said. "Everybody's following his lead right now. They're as focused a group as I've ever coached right now."
Cincinnati won by 20 points on Wednesday night at Wright State, with the Bearcats making a season-high 14 3-pointers out of 32 attempts. They shot away again on Saturday and made 60 percent from the field, including 10 of 21 from behind the arc.
Four players finished in double figures. Sean Kilpatrick added 16 points, Dion Dixon had 15 and Jermaine Sanders scored 12.
The Bearcats can get away with the depleted front line for most of that six-game span, which includes games against Wright State, Radford, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Chicago State, Oklahoma and the Big East opener at Pittsburgh on Jan. 1.
There was no problem against undersized Radford. Cincinnati scored the first 10 points without missing a shot, and had plenty of wide-open ones during an opening 19-2 run. Guyn scored his first basket as part of a three-point play that pushed it to 22-5.
Wright's unguarded 3 built the lead to 34-7 midway through the first half. It was 47-17 with 4:27 to go before halftime. Cincinnati scored 55 points in the first half alone, two more than in its loss at No. 8 Xavier.