Cincinnati took a tough loss on Saturday afternoon, falling to St John's 53-52. It's the 3rd straight season that St John's has come into Cincinnati and walked out a winner. It's the second year in a row where Cincinnati was heavily favored and lost. Just like last year, Cincinnati needed an unlikely guy to make 3s to keep them in it. Last year had JDIII making the game tying 3. This year, Titus Rubles hit 3 of them, including one to make it 51-50. Just like last year, Cincinnati had a key defensive breakdown late in the game to give up the game winning shot. These are the ones that stick in your craw. Games like this are ones that should be wins, but they end up losses. Every team has ugly losses on their schedule when you look back and say "What the hell happened there?" Hopefully this is the only one for this season.
Mick Cronin didn't blame the loss yesterday on the offense. He blamed it on the effort. Some of the effort on the offensive end is why the offense has been horrendously bad the past few games. Cincinnati has lost just one of them though. That's the good news. The bad news is that Cincinnati has an established game plan against them. They have a much tougher schedule. Notre Dame is no easy out. UC lost at Rutgers last season. No one cares about DePaul, but you get Marquette and Syracuse after that. We are going to find out who this team is.
Effort is a funny thing to talk about. It's hard just watching on TV and saying "That guy isn't playing hard." In this case, there were clear cases of UC not exuding a ton of effort. St John's repeatedly beat them down the floor on rebounds in the first half. St John's had a third of their first half points on fast breaks. They had 20 points in the paint in the first half. They scored 24. St John's had 10 offensive rebounds.
Rebounds are all about effort. The rebounding we've seen from Cincinnati this season was not the rebounding that we saw on Saturday. UC was beaten down the floor a shocking amount of times in the first half. We've seen this team play 14 times. They did not do this previously. When it happens, it stands out. A lot.
The turnovers were uncharacteristically sloppy. Multiple times guys caught the inbound pass out of bounds. There was a play where Parker was trapped and no one came to help him. He tried to throw the ball off a leg and it was stolen. UC turned it over 16 times. I don't need to tell you that's not good enough.
Free throw shooting isn't so much an effort thing. Cincinnati got to the line just 11 times. Villanova went to the line 42 times against St John's earlier this week.
Let's talk about the last couple of plays. On the bucket UC took the lead 52-51, Cheikh Mbodj set an absolutely perfect screen on Cash's man. Cash was able to get Obepka 1 on 1 and took him to the basket for an easy layup. Good play all around.
One of the things talked about in the shoot around before the game was making D'Angelo Harrison go left. How do I know this? The ESPNU announcers said it during the first half. The fact that he was able to make the last shot of the game by going right is flat out lack of execution by Titus Rubles. He gave up the right hand way too easily.
Then on the last UC shot, what can you say? Rubles didn't set the screen for Cash, who had to start the offense way out by the logo. The play was the same exact screen play that they just ran. As you know, Rubles got the ball.
If he looks down, he has Parker cutting to the rim for a layup. Right under the basket he has Mbodj for a dunk. Rubles had a good shot, but other people had a better shot. It could have gone in. It didn't though. Rubles made some big plays in this game, but the last couple were not those.
Justin Jackson had 0 points, 1 rebound, 0 assists, 0 steals and 0 blocks. He did have 2 turnovers. I don't know what happened to him over the summer. He hasn't gotten any better on the offensive end. It looks like he's regressed. He hasn't been reliable and his minutes are a reflection of that. I'm really disappointed that he's not better.
Cheikh Mbodj was brutal. 1-7 from the field for 3 points. He did rebound alright with 10 of them. Only 2 offensive. He also had a pair of turnovers. He has to make layups. We aren't even talking shots, just layups. It is killing the offense to play 5 on 3 so much in the half court. In the last 7 games, he's had 5 where he's only blocked 1 shot. That skill has faded as the opposition has picked up.
Cashmere Wright, oh Cashmere Wright. Where would this team be without him? He had 23 points, just about half of UC's total. He was 9-16 from the field, 5-10 from 3. He's damn near 50% from 3 this season. He had 10 rebounds. He had his previous 10 rebound game against St John's in the second meeting last year. He had 4 steals. He made every big shot late it seemed. He assisted Rubles on his 3 late. Cash has been money all season. He's the leader. He knows it and he plays like it.
Your point guard having 1 is a problem, but guys aren't making shots when he passes them the ball. He passes a lot to the next 2 guys I'm about to mention and you'll see why he had 1 assist.
Sean Kilpatrick. 31-95, 32.6% since Marshall. 11-47, 23% from 3 in that same span.
Killa was 3-14, 0-5 from 3 and only 1 free throw attempt. I praised him for getting to the line so much Pittsburgh, so I'm going to say why the hell didn't he try that against St John's? His 3 field goals were a goaltended layup, a fast break layup and a shot in the lane off an offensive rebound where he was fouled. Second straight game with 3 field goals. First single digit scoring performance. Let's get it going, SK. We need you.
JaQuon Parker has had 3 dog performances this season. This was number 3. 1-8 from the field, 0-3 from 3, 1-2 at the foul line, 4 rebounds. He had 2 assists to 3 turnovers. Parker did have 3 steals. That's something. He tries hard, but when the shot isn't falling, it seems like he's not doing anything else. That's not true of course.
UC really can't afford 2 of the 3 amigos not making shots. They really can't.
Titus Rubles put up a career high 14 points. He was 4-8 from the field. Shockingly he was 3-6 from 3. 2 of the 3 triples he missed were way off. 1 was from NBA range. He had 3 boards, 2 assists and 2 turnovers. You can knock him for the last minute, but you shouldn't discount everything he did to keep Cincinnati in the game. In a game where only 3 players made more than 2 field goals, Rubles was absolutely huge in Cincinnati having a shot to win. He and Cash went for 37 of the 52. Rubles may have taken on a bit too much of the scoring burden. He's the only scoring option off the bench. I support him.
I knew if he kept shooting, those 3s would go in one day.
Shaq Thomas played just 7 minutes. He took 1 wild shot. That was it.
Jermaine Sanders was 1-3 for 3 points. He had 2 turnovers. He was one of the guys who caught the ball with his foot out of bounds. Sanders hasn't really done a ton lately. His confidence seems to be dipping. Keep your head up, 15.
David Nyarsuk got the ball in this position. Guess what happened?
If you guessed triple pumped, dribbled, hesitated for 2 seconds and had Chris Obekpa block his shot, you win. He didn't play after this shot attempt.
Mick was so mad at the inside effort that Kelvin Gaines played in the first half. Not because of foul trouble, but because of effort.
Hats off to St John's. They played very tough. Steve Lavin knows how to game plan UC. I think he's 3-1 against the Cats.
At least 10 seconds would come off the clock before UC started setting up the offense in the first half. The press and the zone really slowed down the offense.
St John's has some guys who take ugly looking jump shots. Wowza.
Cash goes cruise control on a layup and it's gotalended by Garrett. UC lost by 1 point. Not saying a play when it was 16-12 was the difference, but it was a big play. He put it off the glass for Christ sake.
St John's last 5 minutes
- wild 3 attempt to beat shot clock.
- NBA 3 attempt late in the shot clock
- Obepka horrible shot
- Wild 3 by Harrison. Which he makes.
Then you have the game winner shortly after that. 5 great defensive possessions giving up 3 points. This defense is elite, #3 on KenPom, and keeps Cincinnati in games it has no business being in. Like this one.
That was the first 3 pointer given up by UC in Big East play. I would rather have Pitt made one when they were down 10 in the final seconds. Timing is everything.
Chris Obekpa blocked 3 shots. This was the 3rd:
I would have liked it if he came to UC.
St John's can't leave the Big East soon enough. I'm tired of watching UC play horrible to watch games in the 50s against them.
Photos via Cincinnati.com and me.