The Cincinnati Bearcats racked up win 26, and their first in the NCAA tournament in 6 years, by best Missouri 78-63. I don't have enough time as I would like to do a full recap of this wonderful win, but there will be the bullet points. As always, pictures from Cincinnati.com. Before I get into the points, I want to talk a little a bit about the win. If ever there were a statement win for the Mick Cronin era, duh, this is it. The Bearcats played like they had pretty much all season. It was a little ugly, but it was right up the Bearcats alley. This isn't the flashiest team in the country. They don't blow you away with an up and down game like say Kansas. They don't cut you apart on offense like Notre Dame. They don't even run around in press like Missouri does. What they do, is play defense and rebound. They grind their way to points on offense. They get you out of a comfortable style of play, and grind away. That has ended up with UC on the sunny side of the scoreboard 26 times. I love this team. I love this season.
Big East teams haven't gotten off to fast starts so far in the tournament, and UC was no exception. The Bearcats fell behind 9-2 after a few turnovers and open Missouri shots. UC hunkered down though. Darnell Wilks of all people hit a 3 to get UC closer. Yancy Gates drilled a 3 to make it 14-12. The Bearcats regained their composure, and got into their game.
You could say the turning point for the game happened in the middle of the first half. Missouri missed a jumper. Dion Dixon, my best friend, got the rebound and threw a fabulous outlet pass to Larry Davis, who immediately took off up the floor. That resulted in this.
And effing one, son. The dunk gave the Bearcats the lead, a lead that they never relinquished. You could tell something special was happening at this point. Not only did Yancy Gates make a 3, but Larry Davis dunked. In a game. Just awesome.
Cashmere Wright had a fantastic game. The point guard is the one responsible for controlling tempo. Cash did that all night. When he left the game, UC struggled. When he came back, UC iced the game. Cash had 11 points and 6 assists. He hit a big 3 to make the lead 5 in the first half. He had 9 in the half. Cash's second half basket pushed the lead to 12. The man Paul Dehner tweeted that Cash making shots early is huge, and he was absolutely right. Just what UC needed.
His backcourt mate Dion Dixon had another strong game. Dion put in 16 points, 6-7 from the line, and pulled home 6 boards. He had 3 offensive boards, as UC pounded Missouri on the glass. If people are new to the blog, or wondering why I call Dixon my best friend, it's because he plays his balls off. He's 6'1, 6'2, 6'3, and he is willing to go inside and hit the glass. When you have guards who rebound, it gives your team another dimension. When Dixon is rebounding, UC is tough.
The Bearcats are probably not as tough as when Yancy Gates is dominating. 18 points on 7-8 shooting, 11 rebounds and 1 block. Yancy Gates brought it, and brought it hard. The Tigers had no answer for Gates inside, especially in the second half. UC pulled away, thanks to big contributions by Gates.
I tweeted this last night, but it deserves to come back again. YANCY GATES 3 POINTER BITCH.
Speaking of rebounding, 33 rebounds, 11 offensive. Missouri had 27 and 11 of their own. It seemed like the Bearcats rebounds were more important. I think the Bearcats scored on over half of their offensive boards. I know they scored on exactly half of them in the first half, because I looked it up.
Missouri had no field goals the last 7:25 of the first half. They didn't have any the first 3 minutes of the second half. That's some kick ass defense.
UC held Mizzou to 38% shooting, 6-19 from 3 and only 13 free throws. Like I just said, kick ass defense.
There was a point in the second half when Mizzou got a steal and a dunk to cut the lead to 6. I was worried for all of 10 seconds before UC got Gates a dunk. After a Tiger miss, Justin Jackson got an offensive board for UC on a Davis miss, leading to Gates getting fouled. Gates missed the second FT, but Jackson hustled to try for the board, and Mizzou knocked it out. Bishop nailed a jumper. The lead was back to 9 and UC was never threatened again. All because of hustle. I love Justin Jackson.
Sean Kilpatrick had 10 points, but it seemed like every single bucket was an answer of a Missouri shot. He had a 3 point play after a Missouri bucket in the first half. A jumper and a foul off a Mizzou layup, and offensive rebound put back after a Mizzou make, and a jumper after Mizzou cut the lead to 8. Every single one was an answer. Damn. Kilpatrick's last jumper put the lead to 10, a margin that held.
Let's see another picture of the Davis dunk.
The Bearcats broke Missouri's will. People at the game, and people who watched on tv even, wrote about how Missouri's body language was down after every UC answer. The Bearcats forced the Tigers out of their game, out of their tempo, and broke their spirit. We've seen it happen against Georgetown, Dayton, Xavier, Marquette, Louisville, we've seen it happen a lot.
The Bearcats play the Connecticut Huskies in the late game on Saturday night. The game is on TBS. Estimated tip is 9:40, but who knows how long Pittsburgh and Butler will play for. I don't want to get into that game just now, the preview will come either sometime this afternoon or tomorrow morning. UConn was very impressive tonight. It's going to be a challenge. This team has answered every single bell this season. They were favored to lose against Missouri. Many people thought the Bearcats would be the first Big East team to not win a game in the big dance. There were people tweeting and talking on Sunday that UC wouldn't beat Missouri. They were wrong. UC has made a lot of people doubters. I don't know what's gonna happen tomorrow, but the Bearcats proved the doubters wrong one more time. I love March. It's so much fun when your team is involved. I believe, friends, I believe.