The second edition of the Bearcats Breakdown focuses on Cashmere Wright. The point guard was in his third year in the program. His first year was wiped out by a torn ACL. He redshirted that year, before being a spot starter in his freshman year campaign. This season, Wright started nearly every game. Stat sheet says he started 33, but looking through the box scores, espn has him starting all but one. The playing time wasn't the only thing that grew. The confidence, the leadership, the swag, the point guard mentality, that all grew as well. It was a year of growth.
The growth immediately pops out when you just take a look at the stats. Points, rebounds, assists, steals and minutes all went up. Cash averaged 25 minutes from 18, 8.9 points from 5.4, 3.9 assists to 2, 2.3 rebounds to 2, and 1.3 steals to 0.7. Wright's shooting was a big part of his offensive growth. Cash had what looks like a modest 105.9 offensive rating, but that is leaps and bounds over the 89.2 rating he had his freshman year. He took about the same amount of shots while he was on the floor, 19.2%, but his effective field goal percentage was 48.3 compared to 40.5. His true shooting percentage, which counts free throws, was 53.8, up from 43.7. Let's just keep it on the line for a minute. Cash got the free throw line 12% more than last season, 47.8% rate, and it paid off. Wright was 84-113 at the stripe, which is 74%. The hours in the gym working on his free throws showed. He was a 59% foul shooter his freshman season. Cash was 98-236 from the field this season, which was 41.5%, and up from 35.6%. His three point shooting was a big key to that, and his scoring. Wright was 32-91 from deep. He was 18-70 a year ago. The 10% difference helped his game out very well. Cash got 42.3% of his points from 2, 30.7 from 3, and 26.9 at the line. His 2 rate was down, but the 3 point rate was up nearly 2%, and the free throw percent was up nearly 7. His shooting came a long way, but it's not all the way there just yet. It's trending well though.
A big part of the game for point guards is getting other people involved without turning the ball over a lot. Cashmere Wright averaged a team high 3.94 assists per game. He assisted on 31.4% of Cincinnati baskets, which was 66th nationally, and 7th in the Big East. Cash had 73 turnovers, which equalled out to 2.08 a game. His turnover % was a little down from last year, but still was at 23%. His 1.9 assist to turnover ratio was 153rd in the country, and 15th in the Big East. Cash created his fair share of turnovers though, averaging 1.3 steals a game, with 47 total. His 3.3 steal percentage was 10th in the Big East. Cash also racked up the first 2 blocks of his career, both against Miami. Wright's rebounding was marginally better, getting 2.3 a game. He had 0.3 offensively, and the other 2 on defensive. He got 9.8% of the Cincinnati defensive boards, a 1% increase. Cash's presence was big for the Bearcats. His plus minus was 280, 85th in the country, 8th in the BE. His 8.2 average was 130th in the NCAA and 13th in the league. His plus minus win loss record was 27-6-1, which was great. The wins had him at 29th, and 2nd in the Big East. His win% was 5th in the Big East.
Cashmere Wright got off to a slow start scoring wise, scoring 11 points in the first 2 games. He had 8 assists, and 7 steals in those games however. He broke out with an 18 point, 8 assist, 4 rebound, 2 steal game against Florida A&M. That was the start of a strong scoring streak. He scored 11 with 3 assists against Savannah St, 10 against Wright State and Toledo, followed up by a 15, 4 board, 4 steal game against Utah Valley. Cash hit only 9 against Georgia Southern, but had 7 assists. Cash scored 12 against OU and Miami before injuries set in. Cash played 3 minutes against St Francis, 16 against DePaul, and 21 against Seton Hall. He played 27 in the Shootout, going 8-8 at the line, powering his 10 point, 4 assist performance.
One of Wright's worst performances happened in the Bearcats first loss. He didn't make a field goal, or get an assist in the Villanova game. He bounced back with 11 and 5 assists in the USF win. He got to the line 10 times in that game, following 10 times against Nova. He would get to the line just 19 times the next 6 games. Not getting to the line hurt Wright's scoring. He had 6, 7, 10, and 2. UC went 2-2 in those games. He had 18 assists though, which is nice. His health got better when the Bearcats welcomed West Virginia to town. Cash went off for 24 of the 55 UC points, on 9-13 shooting. The 24 matched his career high. Cash followed with a modest game against Pitt, before getting 10-5 against DePaul. Cash had a pair of poor games against St John's. he had 15 points, 6 assists and 10 turnovers in the two games.
UC needed wins after the St John's loss. Cash came up huge. He dominated Peyton Siva and the Louisville guards, getting 20 points on 7-15 shooting, with 2 steals in a big win. He held Siva to 8 before Siva fouled out. Cash wasn't done shining yet. He racked up his first career double double against Providence. Cash had his career high in points, and now in assists against the Friars. Cash had 6 points, 5 boards and 3 steals in the tight Georgetown game. He followed that with 15 and 5 assists against Marquette. Cash didn't play great down the stretch. He had 6-4, 2-3, and 2-2 leading up to the NCAA tournament. Wright brought it in March. He had 11-7 to pace the team against Missouri. Banged up, he scored 8 with 6 assists and a pair of steals against Connecticut.
Cashmere Wright had a nice sophomore season, and a courageous one. Wright battled injuries nearly all season. He had a shoulder injury, and a foot injury. He would have good days, and bad. But, he always did what it took to get on the floor and make plays. His willingness to go to the rim and go for steals decreased as the injuries piled up. One could really see the growth and maturity that Wright showed this season. Obviously he can't work on not having injuries. It would be great if he could, but life doesn't work like that. What he can, and has, work on is his shooting. You would like your point guard to be around 80% from the line, and the Bearcats are going to need someone to take a step up with the reliable Rashad Bishop graduated. His 3 point shooting came a long way, and you would like to see him add a couple of more percentage points to that. His interior game will improve when he gets healthy and can get to the basket more. We saw against West Virginia and Louisville that when he's got it going on, he's hard to stop. I wrote around the time Yancy Gates was suspended that UC needed Cash to be the star. I don't think he quite has to be the star per se, but I think he's got to the definite coach on the floor on offense. UC should finally not be restricted by inexperience or just boring play calling. The lineup will all guys who played in the system for at least 2 seasons, many 3 or 4. I'm not going to be delusional and say UC is going to be explosive, but they have the potential to be exciting. Cashmere Wright has the talent to be the man to quarterback the system. I'm excited to see him take the next step to be one of the best point guards in the Big East.