The Cincinnati Bearcats got a little challenge from the Campbell Fighting Camels last night during their 91-72 victory. Campbell played the reverse of what I said pregame. They were blown out of the first half and played UC tight the second. There were a couple of things to be wary about after the game last night. I don't know how much you can draw up to Cincinnati playing poorly, well a lot of it, and how much you can draw up to Cincinnati getting up 20+ points, it was 71-48 when Campbell started with their run, and coasting like teams are apt to do. It was a good game in the sense that Cincinnati blew a majority of the lead and regained the killer instinct. They know they have to finish against Iowa State because they know what happened against Campbell. This was a 4-13, 3-14, 2-15 NCAA tournament game. Campbell I believe is the league favorite. Best of luck to them.
The story of the night was Cashmere Wright. He scored a career high 28 points on 8-14 shooting. He hit 4-6 from 3 and 8-10 from the free throw line. He made nearly half of Cincinnati's free throws. Wright had 5 steals, all coming in the second half. He scored 28 points in 32 minutes. That is impressive. He didn't do much of anything else, 1 rebound, 2 assists to 4 turnovers, but buckets and steals are two things that are very good. Cash showed that the can take the scoring burden when Sean Kilpatrick is off and the big mean add nothing. Hell of a game for Cash. So much so that he gets 2 pictures.
Free throw shooting is an issue. 4 games is a trend. UC was 10-24 when you take away Wright's numbers. The worst was JaQuon Parker who went 5-11. Sean Kilpatrick went 1-4. It's a little comforting that those guys went 6-15 because you believe that they will correct what is wrong. The rest of the team went 4-9, which is awful. Rubles and Guyn went 1-2, Mbodj went 2-4 and Sanders 0-1. I'm officially worried about Rubles at the line. He has been brutal. Sanders hasn't made free throws in either season so far. Mbodj is a big man so there's that. You really can't leave points on the court now. Not with Iowa St, UNLV/Oregon and Alabama coming up. Those teams are too good for that.
The big men, Justin Jackson, Cheikh Mbodj and David Nyarsuk, were awful. They combined for 10 points on 4-10, 3-5 free throws, 14 rebounds, 6 blocks, 4 turnovers and 10 fouls. Those 3 are the biggest question mark for Cincinnati. They can't score and they can't rebound. Outside of Jackson, they are not good defensively. Campbell had 34 points in the paint. The Camels were not afraid to go right at the UC bigs and make them do something. We've seen no fear from a lot of teams. Part of the reason Mbodj has a high block total. The bigs haven't dominated against the lesser teams. What makes you think they are going to play well against legit big men?
Justin Jackson was solid defensively, as usual. He had 6 rebounds, 5 defensive and 3 blocks. He was a mess on the offensive even. He was 1-4. He attempted a 3 that looked horrible. He had 3 turnovers to 1 assist. On top of that, he was whistled for 4 fouls in 13 minutes. He's been around too long to not have an offensive game. Jackson brings so much to the table with his energy and his defense. He's gotta stay on the floor.
Cheikh Mbodj was flat out awful last night. His 4 rebounds and 2 blocks were the result of him being 6 inches taller than every Campbell player. The blocks were when guys drove right up on him and threw the ball into his hand. Once the Fighting Camels made Mbodj have to actually play defense, he went foul crazy and blocked 0 shots the rest of the game. There was a sequence in the first half that expressed this perfectly. Campbell drove and threw a shot right into Mbodj's hand. They got the ball back. Someone tried to drive on Jackson, put up a fade away and Jackson blocked it on the move. Mbodj could not do that. Just because he has 14 blocks this season does not mean he is good at defense. It means he is tall and stands in the middle of the lane.
Sean Kilpatrick couldn't hit water if he fell out of a boat last night, but you have to be encouraged with his all around game. SK had 10 rebounds to lead the team. He had 3 assists, which tied for the team lead. He had a steal and blocked a breakaway layup. You might have seen that on SportsCenter. Killa's shooting woes came from 3. He was 2-9. He hit 4-9 on 2s to get him 15 points and a double double. Hit free throws and he has 18 points. Kilpatrick has evolved as a scorer and overall player. It use to be he would vanish a little if he's not making 3s. He's making a impact on every game. He's going to have a special season.
JaQuon Parker got a little overshadowed by Cash last night and that kind of sucks for him. Parker had 21 points on 7-10 from the field, 2-3 from 3. He was brutal at the foul line as mentioned earlier. Park had 8 rebounds, 4 offensive. He came out early, picked up 2 offensive rebounds, was fouled twice and really set the pace. Parker put the ball on the floor and could not be stopped going to the basket. He had a couple of defensive breakdowns late in the first half, but was very solid for the most part. He had 21 and 8, of course he was solid. Love you, JaQuon.
UC is relying too much on Wright, Kilpatrick and Parker to score. They had 64 of the 91 points. Only Nyarsuk and Jackson attempted more than 3 shots. Guys are too passive and defer to those 3 too much. Cash, Sean and Park are all really good and the leaders of the team, but there is no punch off the bench. Rubles could be that guy, but he hasn't shown much of an instinct to just score lately. Once you erase the exhibition game from your mind, he hasn't attempted more than 6 shots in a game yet. He hasn't scored in double figures. In fact, no one has outside of the amigos. I trust that the 3 can score, but now teams are going to be trying to take them away. I honestly don't know who steps up.
UC had some weird lineups out there with the foul trouble. Wright, Parker, Gaines, Sanders and Davis gave up a layup, layup, jumper and a 3 before Sanders, Gaines and Parker headed to the bench. Cronin subbed every dead ball when Campbell cut the lead to 11. This team does not have a defensive stopper or a major offensive threat off the bench.
Titus Rubles can score, he was 2-3, 1-2 at the line for 5 points. He just hasn't done it with the bright lights on yet. He continues to have a solid overall game with 6 rebounds and 3 assists. He turned the ball over twice and was in foul trouble all night though. It was not one of his better performances so far. He needs to stay on the floor. Especially when everyone else is in foul trouble. Also, we finally had Jackson at the 5 and Rubles at the 4. It was for 45 seconds, but it happened. I wonder if that's a look we will see more in Vegas.
Jeremiah Davis made 1 shot. This was the shot he made.
Shaq Thomas played 6 minutes but they were an impressive 6 minutes. He had a block where he skied high to swat it. He had a steal, 2 rebounds and an assist. Nice energy boost off the bench.
Ge'Lawn Guyn showed off some nice offensive moves in his 5 point performance. He made a beautiful scoop layup. I think his other shot was a layup. Guyn plays solid defense. He is coming along offensively. I don't think he really handled the ball much last night.
Jermaine Sanders gave some good minutes. For the 2nd game in a row, he drove for a layup and a foul. He of course missed the free throw. Sanders had 4 points, 2 rebounds and 1 assist. He had a turnover that turned into a Camel 3 and didn't play again. It's ok Maine, happens to all of us.
Kelvin Gaines played 3 minutes. Says so right in the box score. It also says he had a rebound. Bully for him.
David Nyarsuk was awful in extended minutes last night. He was 3-6 for 6 points, but missed easy bunnies. He blew an alley oop, got it back and scored. That was his only offensive rebound. Nyarsuk had 6 points scored pretty much directly on him during the Campbell run. He didn't play again. The only thing David does that Jackson and Mbodj won't do, is he will get the ball inside and score on the smaller players. Some of the luster has come off from his early game shine.
I'm going to end this by talking about Terry Nelson. I love the 92 Final Four team. Love them. They are the first team I remember rooting on for an entire season. They had some good players. Terry Nelson was the ham of the team. Performance wise, he was 3.6 points and 3 boards a game. Terry Nelson has stayed around Cincinnati and the program and has become associated strongly with the team. So much so that UC hired him. He calls the games UC produces, not the ones ESPN produces. That's why Darrin Horn called a game. Terry Nelson is a 3 point announcer. Meaning he makes 3 points during the 2 hours of basketball. I'll neglect all the minor gripes I have with things he said. It's clear that his research is barely reading the game notes. What pisses me off the most is that he keeps calling Louisville senior point guard and Big East preseason Player of the Year Peyton SILVA. There is not a god damn L in Siva, Telly. You are paid to talk about basketball. At least know the names of the players in the league.
Kudos to Campbell's coach for his killer wardrobe choice.
I would buy half price books from that man.
Photos by Cincinnati.com