Another team will have to find the secret to stopping Kenyon Martin. Southern Mississippi sure didn't have the answer.
"We tried to double him, but we didn't do a very good job of it," Southern Miss coach James Green said. "He could turn and face the basket and either shoot it or throw it over the top of us for easy baskets."
"I just play. I come out every night and try to do something," Martin said. "It's all instinct. I just do what it takes to win. I take what they give me."
Pete Mickeal had 18 points and 10 rebounds for Cincinnati (25-2, 13-0 Conference USA), which used a revised lineup because freshman guard DerMarr Johnson was sitting out a one-game NCAA suspension for accepting money from an AAU coach to help pay his tuition last year at a prep school in Maine.
Johnson, who averages 13 points a game, is the only Cincinnati player who regularly wears a sweatband around his head. While he sat on the bench in street clothes, the entire starting five wore headbands, some of them scrawled with Johnson's No. 3.
David Wall had 20 points and Kilavorus Thompson 12 for Southern Mississippi (16-9, 6-7).
"We didn't give ourselves a chance in this game by getting down early and then trying to match points with them," Green said. "We had some guys who had no idea what they were in for. This team dictated the rhythm from start to finish."
Martin scored 24 points in the first half, including six as the Bearcats jumped to a 12-2 lead. The only Southern Mississippi basket during that nearly five-minute stretch was the result of a goaltending call on Martin.
Wall hit consecutive 3-pointers to bring the Golden Eagles within five points at 13:23. But Southern Mississippi got just one basket in the next four minutes as Cincinnati stepped up its half-court press, which forced 11 turnovers in the first half.
After hitting two free throws with two seconds left to give Cincinnati a 46-29 lead at halftime, Martin opened the second half with two quick baskets as the Bearcats went up by 21.
A 3-pointer by Steve Logan and two free throws by Leonard Stokes gave Cincinnati a 28-point lead with 15:17 to play, the Bearcats' biggest margin until they exploited Southern Mississippi's weariness in the final five minutes. Logan finished with 16 points.
Although Cincinnati already had clinched the Conference USA regular-season championship, its fifth straight, the victory against overmatched Southern Mississippi let the Bearcats get back on track.
Cincinnati has beaten the Golden Eagles seven straight since the semifinals of the Metro Conference Tournament in 1990.
"I think the guys realize we're not playing for a conference championship anymore," Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins said. "We're playing for the best spot in the NCAA tournament."
Huggins was unhappy with the Bearcats' defense, but said otherwise they had recovered from the loss to Temple. Forward Jermaine Tate, who had started 25 games this season, was in Huggins' doghouse and did not play.
"It's real simple," Huggins said. "If you don't lay it out in practice, you don't play in the game."
©2000 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed