The Cincinnati Bearcats looked to be on their way to their first win at a top 5 team since 1963 and their first 4 game winning streak in the Big East, but a 9-1 run by Syracuse in the last 3:47 powered the Orange to a 57-55 victory. The Bearcats had a chance to tie the score, but Cashmere Wright took a bad step back 3.
Some people say that this was a good shot. Having a guy who is 2-12 dribble for 10 seconds and take a step back 3 is not a good shot in my book. Especially when the best player on the team doesn't even touch the ball. Sean Kilpatrick attempted 1 shot the last 5 minutes. He attempted none the last 2 minutes, barely touching the ball. You have to get the ball to your best players in crunch time. Cincinnati did not do that.
Cashmere Wright is a great player. I like him a lot. He was very cold from the field. He took some bad shots late the in the game. He tried a 35 footer, he tried an NBA range 3, he had the step back 3 at the end. He also had a turnover that set up the game winning tip in by Syracuse. It was one of his worst games as a Bearcat. He had 5 points on 2-13 shooting, 1-8 from 3, and no assists. You aren't going to win a lot of games with your point guard doing that.
Losing sucks. We all agree on that. This was a bad loss. There are people playing the moral victory card. This team isn't some plucky underdog. They are a top 25 team. They are supposed to close games that they lead by 6 points with under 4 minutes to go. I don't care who they are playing, the number 1 team or the worst team in America. You have to finish. When you are a good team, you have to close out on the road. That's difference between good teams and great teams. I'm not taking anything away from Syracuse, they made big plays to close. What I'm saying is that Cincinnati has to finish games.
This isn't a loss to hang your head over. This isn't a loss that should make you think UC is not a good team. This is the type of loss that UC can't let happen again. The Cats couldn't close against New Mexico. They couldn't close against St John's. They couldn't close today. You could say that they didn't close out Marquette, which is true. This is something that has to be worked on as the season advances.
I don't want this to all be negative. We saw some big time performances from a couple of people. Cheikh Mbodj had a big second half. He finished around the basket like he hasn't in a long time. Justin Jackson had 4 points and 1 assist, but he played his best basketball in ages. He really helped UC break the Syracuse zone in the second half. JaQuon Parker scored all of his points in the second half. Each shot was bigger than the last.
There are things to build on. Cincinnati can go anywhere and keep the game close because their defense is great. We've seen good defensive teams, but this one is damn near elite level. Syracuse is a good offensive team and they had no answers. This team doesn't quit. They are fun to watch. Things just didn't work out today.
Of course, Syracuse gets a lot credit for winning. Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche seemed to make every single play down the stretch. That's a damn good back court. They turned it up when it mattered the most. This is damn good team. The Orange have that long home court winning streak for a reason.
Box score and photo via SI