What we learned: Abdul Ado throws block party as Cincinnati Bearcats improve to 4-0
Abdul Ado on Thursday finally showed why Wes Miller was so happy to draw the 6-foot-11, 255-pound forward out of the transfer portal and onto the University of Cincinnati campus in the offseason.
The graduate Mississippi State transfer recorded five blocks and a pair of steals in 13 minutes as the Cincinnati men's basketball team closed out its season-opening four-game homestand with a 79-45 win over Presbyterian at Fifth Third Arena.
"I want to welcome Abdul Ado to Cincinnati," Miller said after the victory. "I'm glad he showed up. I hope he stays a while."
Jeremiah Davenport scored a team-high 16 points, Viktor Lakhin added 10 points and the Bearcats (4-0) scored 26 points off 17 Presbyterian turnovers to help Miller became the first head coach to win his first four games at Cincinnati since Tay Baker in 1965.
"Listen, we haven't arrived across any finish line so I'm not going to celebrate," Miller said. "But I want to give our guys credit. I thought they played pretty well."
Up next: Cincinnati heads to Kansas City, Missouri, for the two-day Hall of Fame Classic. The Bearcats tip off the classic against No. 10-ranked Illinois (2-1) at 6:30 p.m. Monday on ESPN.
Here's what we learned from Thursday's win:
Ado has arrived
Cincinnati's defense has the potential to be downright dominant this season, and Ado is a big reason why.
The Lagos, Nigeria, native finally played without his right hand wrapped. It turned out to be like shedding a ball and chain or having a heavy boulder lifted from his back.
"I thought his presence defensively was there all night," Miller said. "We got a chance to see him make some plays around the rim in the second half. But he needed some good things to happen. He's been battling some injuries and learning the new system after getting accustomed to a system at Mississippi State over the last four years. So it's been a little bit of a process, but I thought tonight we saw some of the things that we believe he's going to be able to do and impact the game and have a good year for us."
Ado, who had been dealing with injuries to his thumb and wrist, anchored a UC defense that had nine blocks and held Presbyterian to just four assists. Ado said it's only the beginning for what this team can do on that end of the floor.
"I think one thing we do a lot, even with our size, (and) you don't really see this a lot on an excellent team, which we're striving to be, we communicate a lot," he said. "We talk. We support each other no matter what the situation is. We have a chemistry. ... The communication and the chemistry that we have built around the frontcourt is extremely big for us."
It's hard not to get excited about Lakhin
The 6-foot-11, 245-pound forward has shown flashes of flat-out excellence so far this season.
Lakhin scored eight of his 10 points in the first half and finished 4-for-5 from the field and a perfect 2-for-2 from the free-throw line.
But Lakhin, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, played 13 minutes before seemingly re-aggravating a sprained ankle he suffered Saturday. Miller held Lakhin out of Tuesday's game due to the injury.
Miller made sure to quell any bubbling injury concerns surrounding Lakhin after the game.
"Vik was just cramping if anybody's worried," he said. "I mean, that's part of the deal. He's been in and out of practice. He's got to continue to get in better shape."
Depth, depth and more depth
A total of 13 players played and all 13 players scored for the Bearcats, who made easy work of the Blue Hose (2-2) en route to evening up the all-time series at one win apiece.
Presbyterian defeated the then-No. 20-ranked Bearcats 56-54 on Nov. 19, 2011, at Fifth Third Arena. It was Presbyterian's first win over a ranked opponent in its history as a Division I program.
The Bearcats' depth could be a dangerous weapon going forward if everyone's willing to embrace it, Miller said.
"It's one of the things I talked about in the locker room with the guys," he said. "I think it's really important because it's what's going to make us different as a team. It's what's going to give us a chance to be a successful team. We really do have 12 rotation-type players on our team right now. Obviously, A.J.'s (sophomore guard A.J. McGinnis) out with the ankle, so it's 11.
"That can be this great strength. It's been a strength to date. But guys have to really embrace that. Not everybody, especially in 2021 in college basketball, guys aren't always willing to embrace that. ... I hope we can build upon that, because if we can sustain that type of mentality all year, our depth, the ability to spread our offense around, can be a strength of our team."
McGinnis' ankle injury doesn't look good
McGinnis watched Thursday from the bench while sporting a nice suit and a hefty walking boot after having to be helped to the locker room Tuesday with a left ankle injury.
Miller said Thursday that McGinnis has a high ankle sprain.
"The medical staff says a couple weeks, A.J. says a couple days, and usually it's somewhere in between," Miller said. "But he wants to be back as bad as anybody. Hopefully we'll have him back soon."
Miller said Tuesday that he felt "down" about McGinnis' injury. Miller said he dealt the UNC Greensboro transfer the "short end of the stick" early in the season as Miller continues to figure out the right rotation.
McGinnis has scored six points (two made 3-pointers) in a total of seven minutes this season. A healthy McGinnis did not play Saturday against Georgia.