Fresh off win number 17, it's clear that the Cincinnati Bearcats have found their mold for Big East play. The style this teams has to play to win is work your ass off on defense and get to the free throw line on offense. Defense is a staple for every team. No shit. This team has to play a much tougher brand of defense because their offense isn't good enough to make up for giving up easy buckets. I don't know how much clearer this could be than from what we saw last night. Cincinnati didn't guard the way they normally do. This team doesn't give up a ton of open 3 looks. Rutgers got 10 attempts. They made 6 of them. Rutgers is a bad team. Bad teams need 3 pointers to beat you. Once Cincinnati closed off the 3 point line, Rutgers was lost. They couldn't get the ball inside because of the shot blocking. They couldn't get a look outside because of the tremendous defense. It was a clinic. The box score says that Rutgers tried 7 three pointers in the second half. 4 of them were in the last 45 seconds. That makes the number a little deceiving.
As for the offense, it's not pretty, it's not terribly exciting, but this team needs free throws to score. Take a look at the number of attempts in wins.
Take a look at the number in losses.
We have some good players who can create shots. We saw that at times last night. The problem is that when teams start locking down on Cashmere Wright, Sean Kilpatrick and JaQuon Parker to take away the 3 point shot, the burden of offense moves on to guys who need help to score. If those guys can't give it to them, UC is in trouble.
All you need to do is look at the box score from last night to hammer this home. Cashmere Wright and Parker were both 1-6. In the second half, they both got to the line to get a majority of their points. They made 7 of the 17 free throws. The 17 free throws led to nearly half of the 40 second half points. Stylistically it is going to make the games ugly. It's going to keep the games close. Style points don't win you games. If they did, USF would have more than 1 win because all of Victor Rudd's dunks. Defend and draw fouls. That's the motto.
If Cincinnati's defense is going to defend the 2 point shot like they did last night, teams are in trouble. Rutgers made 10-31, 32%. 7 of those 21 misses were blocked. We haven't seen the bigs lock down the paint that much, hell, maybe all season. Rutgers has no post threat, but man it is easy to wish that we could see a complete shutdown inside the arc like this on Saturday.
A large part of the defense was provided by Justin Jackson. Justin has had some good games this season, but this was his best. He was back in the starting lineup and the man looked like he had something to prove. The book on Jackson is that if he's active on defense, he's going to be active on offense. He was like a bat out of hell on the defensive end. He had 6 blocks, by far a season high. He intimidated Rutgers. His fire and energy rubbed off on everyone else. Mbodj has blocked a lot of shots this season. He seemed a little more fired up after blocking them last night. Jackson also had a steal.
That rubbed off on his offensive game. JJ was 3-8, 1-2 at the foul line, for 7 points. He scored the first 3. 2 of his missed shots were on a wild follow and a poorly timed alley oop. He wasn't taking bad shots. He had 4 offensive rebounds. Jackson had 3 assists. He threw an alley oop to Kelvin Gaines. He had a big kick out for a 3.
I wrote in this space a few days ago that he was the most disappointing player on the team this season. I will gladly eat that crow. That trailing block was almost as good as the one he had against Craft in the Sweet 16. Take a look for yourself.
Cheikh Mbodj seems to have figured things out offensively. Stand near the basket for alley oops, make layups, get rebounds. He followed up 9-6 against Syracuse with 10-5 last night. That is exactly what you need. UC doesn't need a big guy to score 20 points. They need them to make the opposing team respect them so it opens up the court for everyone else. Keep it going, Cheikh.
Only 20 minutes for Cashmere Wright because of foul trouble. He played the first 5 minutes and roughly the last 15 minutes. Back to back poor shooting games. It seems to me that Cash is concentrating too much on the 3 ball. 5 of his 6 shots were from deep. I know he shoots a lot and he is very good, but variety is always nice. 3 assists to 3 turnovers. Not great. His 3 was pretty big though. It gave UC the final lead.
Sean Kilpatrick followed a 1-5 first half with a 4-8 second half to lead all scorers with 19 points. He was 1-4 from 3 in the first, 2-4 in the second. SK is the type of guy that I really don't care how much he shoots. Not just because Cincinnati needs him to score. But because he's capable of dropping 3 in a row and taking over the game. He did that in the second half. He's a damn good basketball player. Killa had a 19-6-4-2 steal line. 3 turnovers as well, the only major flaw last night. Unless he's in foul trouble, he's not coming off the court. I respect that.
JaQuon Parker had a pretty bland game. As mentioned earlier, he was 1-6 from the field. Just like Cash, he was 1-5 from 3. 3 pointers are not Parker's game. JaQuon did finish 4-6 at the foul line. That was good to see because I don't know why he's been so miserable from there this season. He's at a career low 56%. Yes, that is lower than the year he didn't make a shot and never played.
After a couple of games of curbing the turnovers, Park had 3. It seems a large number are on travels.
Cheikh Mbodj and Justin Jackson outscored JaQuon Parker and Cashmere Wright in a game Cincinnati won. Let that sink in.
Titus Rubles didn't play a lot of minutes, but he had a pretty nice game. He was 1-1 from the field, 4-6 at the stripe for 6 points. He had 4 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal in 18 minutes. I'm all for playing whoever is the hot hand between Jackson and Rubles. I would love to see them play together more often, though. I think that could work. They can't be that bad defensively. They would certainly be better than the Gaines and Jackson line.
5 minutes for Shaq Thomas. Hope you liked the mid-season run, my man.
5 points from Ge'Lawn Guyn last night. He was 1-3 from the field, 0-2 from 3, 3-3 on FTs. He iced the game with a fast break layup and a foul. Guyn continues to defend his ass off, even if it doesn't up in steals or blocks. I thought he would get 6, 5 is close enough. Thanks for making me look smart.
Someone posted on twitter last night that Chuck said pregame that UC had to score 70 points and shoot 25 free throws. Of course, I said "Why would anyone expect UC to score 70 points?" My prediction in the preview, 70 points. Own the good and bad predictions.
Rutgers turned the ball over 21 times last night. A lot of it was because the Cincinnati defense. Some of it were careless, careless turnovers. At least twice Rutgers threw the ball away out of timeouts. Once they threw a bounce pass to the Rutgers bench. They had a couple of selfish plays that ended in turnovers that really changed the game. This was a game they are going to regret losing. The Bearcats were there for the taking.
The shot Dane Miller took when the score was 36-31 Rutgers was one of the worst shots I've seen someone take this season. Cincinnati immediately scored. I said on twitter that it would start a UC run. The Cats went on a 18-9 run to take the lead for good. Miller sat on the bench for 5 minutes.
I like Jerome Seagears. He plays a little too out of control, but once he figures that out, he's going to be a stud. It could be in the Big East, it could be in the Big 10.
Myles Mack is a pretty good shooter. Not a great ballhandler.
Jermaine Sanders had 2 boards in 6 minutes. He took a 3. Thought it was off. You all thought I was going to say thought it was in. No, that one looked bad.
We've heard rumblings that Mick wants to play Kelvin Gaines more. Those rumblings were fact when Gaines came into the game before the first media timeout. He played 10 minutes. He had 2 points and 2 rebounds. He didn't block a shot, but he had a steal. All in all, a solid 10. Although it's hard to play him with Jackson and Guyn on the court too. There is no scoring there.
David Nyarsuk is the odd man out. He played 2 minutes. He called for a pass when he was wide open under the basket. He somehow seemed surprised the ball came. People came to defend him and he walked. He didn't play another second.
I'd be remiss if I didn't bring up offensive rebounding. UC pulled in 43.3% of their misses according to BBState. They only had 5 second chance points though.
The turnovers were hard to watch. 17 of them.
14 assists on 18 field goals. That's a positive on which to end.
Don't forget, UC plays at 11 am Saturday. Bring on Seton Hall. Go Bearcats.
Photos via Cincinnati.com