The 19th win of the basketball season was exactly what the doctor ordered. Everyone wanted UC to make a statement. They sure as hell made one against Villanova. The defense smothered the Wildcats in the second half. The offense finally, finally, finally got 3 pointers to fall. There have been a lot of detractors about the Mick Cronin offense. This game was exactly why he runs it. He wants the best players to get the shots they want. The shots they want are 3s. Cincinnati made 12 of them. I think it's safe to say that no one of Villanova's caliber is going to beat this team when they make 12 three pointers. All of the open looks that Cincinnati managed to get against Pittsburgh fell last night. It was cathartic to see Cincinnati finish off an opponent. We knew this team was capable of shutting down a foe like this. They finally did it. Fist pumps and high fives all around.
The second half was one of the better halves of basketball UC has played this Big East season. The defense forced 12 Villanova turnovers. 6 of those turnovers were the result of steals. The Wildcats were just 8-24 from the field. They were held to 6 three point attempts. Villanova only attempted 8 free throws and 15 for the game. This is the team that gets to the line the most out of anyone in the league. The open shots that Nova got to fall in the first half were taken away completely. Any time you get more turnovers than field goals allowed, that's some hellacious defense. The Bearcats were a little too overanxious defensively in the first half. They would get turnovers or give up an open shot. They recovered much better in the second half. The energy was off the charts.
The energy from the defense came from the offense. The team thrived off of making 3s. Kilpatrick scored a traditional 3 point play, then he hit a 3, Sanders hit a 3, Cash hit a 3, Kilpatrick hit another 3 and Parker made a 3. 5 of 6 baskets from the 13 minute mark to the 5 minute mark were 3 pointers. The lead went from 6 to 18. The ball movement was solid, 6 assists on 10 field goals. The shooting was in rhythm. Everything was looking good.
I suppose if you want to look at this from another perspective, this game was a bit of fool's gold. UC was horrible from 2. They hit just 9-28, 32%. They were awful from the free throw line at 14-24, 58%. The bulk of the offense was reliant on 3 point shooting. Something that we know is not dependable. UC hit 18% above their season average last night. They balanced out a game where they made 4-25 from 3 pretty much. The thing about heavy 3 point offenses is that you are going to miss and you are going to lose. That's not breaking news to anyone. When those shots fall though.
Titus Rubles got the start instead of Justin Jackson. He was decent in his time. The only of his 5 shots that fell was one with a foot behind the 3 point line and foot inside the 3 point line. Worst shot in basketball. At least he made it. Rubles had 3 offensive rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals. He also had 3 turnovers. Decent game, slight thumbs up I'll say.
Cheikh Mbodj had 3 blocks. That's the only thing he contributed. 2 came in the second half, proving the point that everyone played better when the shots fell.
Cashmere Wright had 11 points, 4 assists and 3 steals. With his 4 assists, he passed Steve Logan for 3rd all time in assists with 457. With his 3 steals, he moved into a tie with David Kennedy for the most in UC history. He should, should, get the record against Georgetown. Congratulations to Cashmere Wright. Those are both incredible accomplishments. He's been a hell of a player. He's been one of the toughest Bearcats that's come along in the past decade. He's played with injuries pretty much every game the past 2 seasons. He's still not all the way back, but his being on the floor is a big boost for this team. He's been a great Bearcat. I love watching him play. Congratulations on the hard work, Cashmere. It's appreciated.
Sean Kilpatrick airballed a 3 pointer early in the game. He started 1-6. He finished 5-7. There was a point in the first half where he canned back to back 3 pointers. When he is feeling it, the guys feed off him. He appears to be the emotional leader of the team. He also appears to be the best player. Kilpatrick had 19 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal. He's good at basketball.
JaQuon Parker had the type of game that he had not had in a very long time. Villanova had no one that could guard him. Parker slashed for buckets. He hit jumpers. He hit 3 pointers. He drew fouls. He scored 19 points on 6-10 shooting. He was 3-3 from 3. His shot at the very end made everyone happy. Except Villanova. They probably didn't' like it. Parker has averaged single digits in Big East action. That's part of the reason for the offense struggling. He stepped up and the offense rolled. Well, it rolled UC style, not like Michigan style. Parker played an all around game with 19 points and 6 rebounds.
But not all was perfect. Parker could have had 22-23 points but he was just 4-11 at the free throw line. The team missed 10 free throws. That's 7 by one guy. His free throw problem has to be all in his head. He's too good a shooter to be so poor at the line. It didn't cost UC or anything, but you want to see him play to the best of his ability. That includes foul shots. Also, he turned it over 3 times.
Another unfortunate thing for Park is that this was one of the photos of him in the gallery.
No cool action shot, just him getting fouled. They are doin' you dirty, JaQuon.
Shaq Thomas played 2 minutes. He had a steal and was fouled. I don't know why Mick is putting the shackles on him so much.
Justin Jackson was just injured so his 3 foul, 3 turnover performance will get a pass.
Loved, loved, loved what Ge'Lawn Guyn brought last night. He had 5 points and 1 assist. He was not afraid to pull the trigger. One of his shots was so far off that it banked when it wasn't suppose to, but you want him to shoot. He is a different player at home than he is on the road. Home Guyn has confidence. Even if it comes in short periods on the floor.
Good game from Jermaine Sanders. He let the silky smooth jumper fly. He was 2-4 from 3 for 6 of his 7 points. He was 1-2 at the foul line. You can pretty much pencil that in. Sanders had 4 boards and an assist. Gotta love it.
Kelvin Gaines and David Nyarsuk played 10 minutes. They had 0 rebounds, 0 shot attempts, 1 turnover, 1 block and 4 fouls. When you add Mbodj to that, you get 31 minutes, 1-4 for 2 points, 1 rebound, 1 turnover, 4 blocks and 8 fouls. Not good enough.
UC fans don't complain about Bob Wenzel nearly as much as other fans. They probably should.
JayVaughn Pinkston was by far the best player Nova had on the court last night. He had 12-8-1 block-1 steal.
He and the rest of his teammates were brutal at the line. Pinkston was 0-3, the team was 7-15. That's from a team that shoots in the 70% range. The Wildcats looked rattled the second half.
Bring on Georgetown.
Photos via Cincinnati.com