Things weren't pretty Saturday night in Vegas as Cincinnati won the Global Sports Thing over Oregon, but that picture says it all. Cincinnati won it, that's all that matters. Tournaments like these tell you a lot about what kind of team you have. The Bearcats have a good team that can overcome adversity. It also answered a few of the questions that I had about the team going into the tournament. I'll get to those right now.
One of my big questions has been what happens when Kilpatrick/Wright/Parker aren't scoring? We saw this Saturday night when Cash was hurt and Kilpatrick wasn't hitting anything from the 8 minute mark of the first half until the very end. The offense really suffered. But we had people step up. Titus Rubles especially. JaQuon Parker tried to fill more of a scoring role as well. It took a while, but when the money was on the table and the Bearcats were trailing, guys made shots. Especially Rubles.
Rubles answered a question of how productive would the bench be? Rubles had a great tournament. He scored double digits in both games. Jermaine Sanders scored 7 huge points on Saturday night. Shaq Thomas gave excellent minutes. Guyn hit some shots on Friday night against Iowa State. We have some players at the wing and back court positions.
Which is good because the UC front line is garbage. I really think Mick should spend this week preparing around a lineup with Jackson and Rubles in the front court, with Thomas and Sanders getting more of the minutes off the bench at the 3 and 4. Cheikh Mbodj has been awful. David Nyarsuk is not a guy you can run out there for a lot of minutes. Jackson may not be as tall as Mbodj or Nyarsuk, but he is twice the defender they are. Blocked shots look fancy on the box score, but Jackson does so much more. Denying the post, not letting people get shots in the paint, not letting people get position, not letting people get rebounds, those are more important than shot blocking. UC got 9 points from the two big men in 2 games. They combined for more fouls on Saturday night than points during the weekend. Someone pointed out on twitter that they also had 19 rebounds. Sanders and Rubles rebounded nearly that well. I play them more. That's just me. I'm not a coach.
The Bearcats finally hit some free throws! Sean Kilpatrick went UC record breaking Friday night in a 23-25 performance, which has to be the best of the Cronin era. UC was 18-27 on Saturday, which is 67%. But they hit 10-14 in the second half to ice the game. Which is what matters. If you are going to hit 8 in one half and 10 in the other, make the 10 when the points are at their most important.
Let's talk about the players because I have been talking to people on twitter and lost where this was going. Bearcats Blog, the blog with too much honesty in it's transitions.
Justin Jackson gave good minutes on Saturday when he was on the floor. He had 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block and 1 steal. Jackson scored both of his points at the free throw line. He went 2-2! More importantly, Jackson had 1 turnover. I hope he can stay on the floor more. He's having a very solid start to the season. Oh before I forget, his foul at the end of the first half was absolutely horrible and a very dumb decision.
Cheikh Mbodj played 8 minutes with 2 points, 2-2 on free throws!, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks. He fouled out. I talked about him earlier. I think I'm going to far and being mean towards him. I'm sorry, Cheikh. You seem nice.
Cashmere Wright had an odd game. He had a stretch in the first half where he was absolutely on fire. He drilled 4 threes and was having himself a nice game. Then he got hurt with some kind of shoulder injury. The announcers theorized that he was on the bench to start the second half because of a discipline thing. It was weird. Anyway, Cash came back and played. He hit a huge 3 with 3 minutes left to put UC back up 10. He had 17 points on 6-14 shooting, 5-9 from 3. He had just 1 board and 1 assist to 3 turnovers. He did have a pair of steals. But he also made this face.
Sean Kilpatrick, just like Cash, got off to a hot start. He scored 11 in the first 12 minutes of the game. Then he went silent. Oregon held him to just 4 second half shots, 3 of them were from 3. We haven't seen Kilpatrick bottled up a lot so far this season. This was a good game to see what quality teams are going to do with him and for him to adjust. Especially with the pressure. He had 5 turnovers. Kilpatrick helped ice the game at the foul line late. His 5 second half points came in the last 48 seconds. Those are the easy points that turn an 11 point game into a 16 point game. SK had 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. He's good. I'm glad he's on our team.
JaQuon Parker got off to a slow start at 3-9 in the first half, but he finished the game 6-16 for 16 points. He was 2-5 from the free throw line. Vegas did not treat him well from the field. Parker had 4 rebounds and huge steal late in the game. The box score doesn't sound that impressive, but Parker played very well on Saturday night. He's one of those guys who leaves it on the floor. His shooting will get better.
Titus Rubles had himself a coming out party. He was 5-9, 3-3 FTs, for 13 points. He had 4 rebounds. Oregon took a 54-52 lead. Rubles hit the game tying jumper, assisted on a go-ahead 3, got a rebound, got fouled and made both, hit a jumper and then hit another jumper. UC went from down 2 to up 9. Absolutely huge minutes from Titus. He played his ass off this weekend.
Shaquille Thomas gave the team an absolutely huge boost off the bench. He played 9 minutes, scored 4 big points with 3 rebounds and had 2 steals. Thomas made a nice move in the lane, threw the ball at the rim at 1000 mph, but got the rebound and scored with some touch. Big plays by this young man.
Ge'Lawn Guyn was 0-2 from the field with 2 assists in 13 minutes. He had a little trouble running the offense to start the second half, but those were extraordinary circumstances. Guyn is solid.
Jermaine Sanders and his taking a bigger role are things that I like. He was 2-4 from the field for 7 points. He even hit 2-2 from the foul line. It was a big step. The 3 that Sanders made was on the pass from Rubles mentioned earlier. It was a huge shot. Sanders also had 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. Jermaine Sanders is going to be a player. I believe in him. It's great to see him performing the way he did this weekend.
Kelvin Gaines played 6 minutes. He got an offensive rebound and was fouled. We saw him attempt 2 free throws. They went as expected. But still, first half minutes!
David Nyarsuk had 5 rebounds. He got pushed under the basket way too easily on defense. Part of the reason he fouled out.
Arsalan Kazemi had 7 offensive rebounds as part of his 15 rebound game. That was a hell of an effort. Oregon played a very tough game. I don't know off the top of my head where they are projected to finish in the Pac 12, but they are going to be a tough out. They won an impressive game against UNLV and they gave Cincinnati all they could handle. Good luck this year, Ducks.
Photos via Cincinnati.com