This was a pretty big weekend for Cincinnati basketball. It started on Saturday morning with the win over Seton Hall. It extended to Sunday when 5 star recruit Jermaine Lawrence picked Cincinnati. Take a minute to check out of the Big East standings. Cincinnati is tied for 2nd with Louisville, Notre Dame and Georgetown. They are a game in the loss column out of first place. It's hard to not want to look ahead and wonder if this team can acquire greatness. There is a damn good shot that this team could, and they will be favored to, win the next 4 games. That might put them at the top of the league. We've never been to these heights with Cincinnati basketball in the Big East. 6-3 is the best 9 game record ever. Lord knows that there are traps all over the place and every game is a battle. I trust this team.
Trust is a very important word in life. There aren't a lot of things that you can trust and rely on. I trust that this team is going to find a way to win. The 3 of 4 losing skid that welcomed in 2013 seems to have been necessary. This team needed to be tested. They needed to see what they have inside. New Mexico is a good team. Notre Dame was playing well. St John's is a little better than most people thought, and they always give Cincinnati fits. Those games seemed to strengthen the core. When it comes down to brass tax, this team has what it takes to win. Syracuse is a tricky one because they let that one get away. But I don't think they will let many more get away from them down the stretch. This team has the instinct.
What this team doesn't have is the killer instinct. Saturday showed the same problem that plagued UC against Marquette. The same problem that plagued them against DePaul to a lesser extent. They get up big and it seems like they take the foot off the gas. Marquette is not in the same class because they were shooting unbelievably bad and started making shots. But that was still a 16 point lead that was blown. DePaul was down 11 late and was able to cut it to 5 and eventually 3.
Seton Hall was down 20. They were playing awful basketball. Kevin Willard went to multiple timeouts early in the second half. The Bearcats could do no wrong. Seton Hall could do no right. The subs gave some horrible minutes. Dan Cronin, Mick's brother, predicted a run was coming when the lead was 15. He was not wrong. I don't think it is too much to ask for this team to just put someone away. The season is long. We have at least 11 games left. I don't think I can take panic attacks in every one of them.
Justin Jackson gave us a different type of game than he did against Rutgers. Different in this case doesn't mean bad. He had 3 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 1 block and 2 turnovers. Only 1 foul. Jackson played 20 minutes. He split time evenly with Titus Rubles. Jackson doesn't have to be a superstar. He has to be an active energy boost for this team. He gets knocked on his passing because for every good pass there is a turnover to follow, but he has a lot of passing skill. Look at his face when he thinks he made a good pass. You can see how proud he is of it. Solid game from Jackson. Keep it up, 5.
Cheikh Mbodj is on a tear right now. He put up 7-7-5 blocks. He is on the highest scoring 3 game stretch of his career. He was 2-5 from the field and 3-4 at the stripe. All he has to do to be effective is score on dunks and layups. His post game is incredibly weak. 2 of his misses were on awful attempts. One of them was blocked. Mbodj cleans up the offensive glass pretty well. The biggest flaw for him is staying on the court. He was saddled with 4 fouls. Mick wants to play him 30 minutes so badly. The rotation is getting a lot tighter. Mbodj has to be on the floor longer for the team to be successful. With the way he has played on both ends, he needs to stay on the floor to take advantage of his hot streak.
Cashmere Wright has had a rough go of things since returning. He is 7-29, 4-21 from 3. Titus Rubles is telling him to stop shooting 3s right now. Cash hit 2 of those 3s in the game Saturday. They were both on wide open looks. One of them he created with some nice dribbling, the other was a spot up. I'm a little worried that he's relying too much on the 3 point shot. Especially since it has stopped falling. He has 6 games this season where he has attempted 8 or more 3 pointers. 2 of them are in the last 3 games. He's made 3-8, 5-9, 5-10, 2-8, 1-8 and 1-8. I know you were all wondering. He has not been the same shooter in Big East play. Getting to the basket more seems like it would help him.
It definitely helped him get to the free throw line. Cash was 7-7 from the stripe. He was 4-13 from the field. He had 4 assists to 2 turnovers. Wright recorded 1 steal to tie him with Darnell Burton for second most all time. I am pretty sure I said that stat incorrectly on Friday, so apologies.
Sean Kilpatrick went full volume shooter Saturday afternoon. He scored a game high 21 points. He used 19 shots to get them. He was 3-4 from 2 and 5-15 from 3. He only got to the free throw line once. Killa is a gunner. Luckily for all of us, he does more than just shoot. He had a team best 7 rebounds. He added a pair of steals. He got a steal late that led to his 3 late to ice the game. Offense on this team is going to come down to Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright scoring. Only 4 players attempted more than 2 shots. Only 3 players made at least 2 shots. Killa played 36 minutes. He's good. I like him. You probably do as well.
JaQuon Parker had trouble getting his shot to fall, but he went 6-8 at the foul line for the majority of his 9 points. He had 2 boards and 2 assists. He was also called for a travel. It seems like he is called for a travel in every game. Not a lot to say about JaQuon today.
Titus Rubles rebounds like a mad man. He had 6 in his 20 minutes. He made both of his free throws for his only points. He had an assist and a steal. I feel like what he does isn't accurately reflected in the box score. I don't think starting matters to Rubles as much as it does Jackson. Rubles comes in and does his thing no matter what. Jackson has played completely different since being placed back in the starting lineup. It's good to have guys who don't have massive egos and are willing to get their 20 minutes any way they can. Props to Titus.
That picture is both awesome and a representation of Rubles' rebounding skill.
The rebounding was outstanding in the second half. UC pulled in 25.7% of their misses for the game, which isn't great, but they had 8 offensive boards in the second half. 7 of their 8 second chance points were in that half. UC pulled in 74.4% of Seton Hall's misses. The Pirates had 0 second chance points in the second half.
UC had 9 steals. Seton Hall is known for turning the ball over a lot. They turned it over 14 times, which is below their average.
It seemed like Seton Hall scored off of every UC turnover. Sure enough, the Pirates had 8 points off of 5 first half turnovers and 9 points off of 8 second half turnovers. Nearly 29% of the Pirate points came off of UC turnovers. That's not a great thing.
Shaq Thomas and Ge'Lawn Guyn both played 5 minutes. Thomas was called for 2 fouls and had a rebound. Guyn missed a 3, pulled in a board, had a steal and turned the ball over.
Jermaine Sanders played 9 minutes. He scored a bucket. He also had a rebound and a turnover.
Kelvin Gaines once again got the early minutes over David Nyarsuk. Gaines was 1-2 for 2 points. The 1 was of a dunk. Of course. He had a rebound. In the bad category, he had 3 fouls and 2 turnovers. One of those was an offensive foul.
Nyarsuk played 1 more minute, 7-6. He had 2 points by going 2-3 from the foul line. He hit a big pair late in the game. He had 2 rebounds. One of his most inspired games in a while.
The free throw shooting was pretty excellent. 21-27, 77.8%. I could take that.
The 3 point shooting numbers are going to look bad when SK and Cash aren't making them at a high rate. They were 7-23. UC was 8-26. That stat is totally reliant on Cash and Killa.
I was pretty impressed by Brandon Mobley of Seton Hall. He had 16 points on 6-8 shooting. He was a big part of the reason they were close in the first half.
Fuquan Edwin had 14 in the second half on 4-10 shooting. He was held to 1 steal. I think Edwin is definitely going to be a pro. I like his game.
Gotta hand it to Seton Hall, they didn't quit.
I can't end this piece without talking about our good friend Carc. Ol' Carc was at the UC-Seton Hall game as the sideline reporter, which is a pretty dumb job in college basketball. He did some weird thing where he dressed up as a Pirate. That was the lead in to his epic journey. No one in the history of planet earth has done this. He started at UC-Seton Hall and went ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE COUNTRY to the Gonzaga-San Diego game. Now, he didn't even stay for the whole UC game. That's kind of lame. This was a big build the entire first half. When Carc finally left, people on twitter rejoiced. This was the worst promotion of the season. You can do better, ESPNU.
Photos via Cincinnati.com