Win number 6 was an exciting one for Bearcats fans. The 4 guard starting line, Wright, Dixon, Kilpatrick, Parker, Jackson, set the pace early and UC was able to coast the rest of the 35 minutes to an easy road win at Wright State. This was a game that UC should have won by 15-20 at the beginning of the season. With everything that happened, no one really knew what to expect from the men in black. What we got was a season high 78 point performance. Someone asked me on twitter if the fight and suspensions would be the thing to galvanize the team, getting things back on the winning track. While it's too early to say anything about that, what I can say is that for one game the team played together. For this game, the Bearcats played like a team. The Bearcats gave probably their best performance of the season. We can move on from hearing about the fight once Xavier plays their game on Sunday, because you know it's going to be a story when they take the court minus Holloway, Lyons and Wells, but the Bearcats put it in the rear view last night. Just like I'm thankful for Cincinnati.com for the photos, I'm even more thankful that we can stop talking about the fight and move on to things that are sports related.
I don't think there was a person on Earth, besides the guys on the floor, who saw the UC start coming. Cashmere Wright assisted on 4 of the first 6 FGs, 4 of which were 3s, and the Bearcats jumped on Wright St 17-2. The lead got up to 22-4 before bouncing around from 15-25 the rest of the game. The Bearcats got a lot of open looks from deep early against the Raiders, and man did they take advantage. For the game UC took 32 three pointers, making 14 of them. The Bearcats got off to an offensive explosion that Wright State didn't see coming and could never recover from. They kept it up, shooting 54.9% for the game. It was brilliant to see. The guys played with purpose from the get go. It really showed and it really paid off. High effort and great intensity have been something missing from the team this season. It was there for all 40 last night.
Defensively there were the problems that you would expect. Wright St was able to get some easy baskets at times. Their big man was the leading scorer. But overall, things went pretty well. If ever there was a game that the offense could carry the team to a win, it was this one. Wright State is just not good offensively. When they can't get a stop, they aren't going to beat anyone talented. UC could afford to trade baskets. But still, Wright State shot 47.6% from the field, which is pretty bad defensively. The Raiders got to the line 17 times, which is very many. UC tried a lot of different things. They went man, they went zone, they went man/zone, they went zone/man, but obviously size was an issue. So were fouls. The guards were able to ramp up the WS turnovers, 13 forced, which went a long way to keeping the margin from ever getting close.
Going back to the offense, only 1 scoring drought. It went from the 1:30 mark of the first half to the 16:30 mark of the second. UC scored 1 point during that span. The other 2-3 minute dry spells they had are natural. Even this one lasted over both halves, so there really wasn't a problem. Outside of the slow start to the second half that is. Not 1 segment without a FG. Progress.
I'm a little whole lot worried about the foundation of the offense going forward. It's not really sustainable. UC went 7-8 on 2s in the first half and 7-11 in the second. They bombed 20 treys in the first, making 9, and went 5-12 the second half. The balance in the second half was much better. Knowing this team though, you can't expect to make 9 threes in a game period, let alone in a half. Some of it was a large part the defense Wright St played, which left guys open for shots. I would like to see things not so 3 heavy, just because if you start to miss, what's plan b? Shoot more 3s? I liked the openness of the offense and the spreading of the floor. That should continue with all the bigs suspended.
This team and free throws. Ugh. UC was 8-18 at the line. Justin Jackson had the second best percentage on the team, and he went 3-6. JaQuon Parker hit 2-3 to lead the team. Dion Dixon has seemingly lost his free throw touch. Maybe he's thinking too hard about them, maybe he's not thinking enough. Whatever it is, he's at 66% on the season following a 3-7 performance. Cashmere Wright went 0-2. That means your guards went 3-9 from the foul line. Brutal.
Let's start talking about the individual performances, shall we? Justin Jackson took a lot of flak from me in the pregame, and the last few post-games, and man did he respond well. Jackson scored a career high 11 points on 4-5 shooting. Jackson had 8 rebounds, 4 on each end. He blocked 3 shots. JJ got 2 of them on one early possession, which was great to see because you could tell he was invested in the game. Flipping to the down side though, Jackson only played 20 minutes. A large part of that was because he got in foul trouble, eventually fouling out of his 4th game this season. With UC being so short, that can't happen. He's got to stay on the floor. He's the only big man with experience, and the only one who is a semi-threat offensively. We need you, JJ.
Kelvin Gaines saw 17 minutes last night. He accomplished a pair of firsts. Congratulations to Kelvin on scoring his first basket and getting his first points as a Bearcat. The other first was that he fouled out. Gaines blocked a couple of shots, one you can see pictured, and had a couple of rebounds. Just work on the defense and rebounding, the rest is just details.
Gaines can afford to not score when Sean Kilpatrick is dropping 6 threes. Killa was 7-15 from the field, 6-12 from deep, for his game high 20 points. He scored 17 of them in the first half, leading the way for the Bearcats. He dropped 9 of the first 17. Killa dropped a 3 to squash the only Raider rally, or 'rally,' of the game when they cut it to 13. SK was one of several guys contributing to the rebounding effort by pulling down 4. I don't know if Sean wants to be a leader for the team, but he was a leader by example last night. Perhaps I'm giving him too much credit, but he's the guy who makes the machine go because he takes the most shots. Great game for Kilpatrick.
Speaking of great games, welcome back JaQuon Parker. He gave 23 minutes, 14 points on 5-8 shooting, 2-3 from deep, with 6 rebounds. 4 of those rebounds were offensive. Mostly all of his rebounds came early. He still looks a little rusty, he turned the ball over 3 times early and seemed to push things that weren't there. But for the most part, he turned in a great performance. After how miserable his 2010-11 season was, this was a great sight to see. Parker is definitely the 6th man for this team, even with everyone back. The 4 guard look is unique. Parker adds a lot to it.
Cashmere Wright had a nice performance. As I touched on earlier, he got a lot of guys involved early in the game, and that continued the whole game. Cash finished with 8 assists to 3 turnovers. Wright chipped in 12 points on 5-10 shooting, only 2-7 from deep, and 0-2 at the line. He had a solid 4 rebound game. I like that Cash has taken to getting defensive rebounds. Adds more to his game. He can settle too much for jump shots. Don't really like him taking 7 threes, but as for the rest, I'll take that in a heartbeat.
Rough game for my best friend Dion Dixon. 3-7 from the field, 1-5 from deep, 3-7 from the line, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 3 turnovers, 10 points. He did have 2 steals. Shots just weren't falling for him for the second game in a row. He did take it inside and get to the line more. That's a plus. He just couldn't get free throws done. He's in the middle of a little shooting slump. He's got some games to break out of it though. He'll bounce back.
Jermaine Sanders put it down last night. He drilled all 3 of his shots, which were all 3s. Those were his first made 3s of the season. He had 4 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal to boot. He gave a big time spark off the bench. He looked ready for his role. Granted he would have looked ready for his role if his shots fell in other games, but in this one he really shined bright. He played 18 minutes and looked like he belonged out there. Can't wait to see him get more time on the floor as we go on.
Jeremiah Davis might have had his last real shot in a while to produce with Ge'Lawn Guyn out, and he kind of missed it. He got 11 minutes, went 0-2 and committed 2 fouls. I was hoping he would get on the board, but alas. He's probably moving back to the bottom of the rotation.
Alex Eppensteiner threw out a trillion. I see you, Eppy.
Justin Jackson mean face