Cincinnati took their first loss of the season Thursday night, falling to the New Mexico Lobos 55-54. If you like games where people shoot the ball and score points at will, you should not look for a replay of this game! It was not pretty. Cincinnati is very good at defense. New Mexico shot 38.9% for the night. New Mexico is above average defensively and Cincinnati has a tendency to look absolutely horrendous offensively. Cincinnati shot 31.3% for the game. You could point to 2 shots as the turning point. There was the Sean Kilpatrick 3 at the end of the first half that rattled out. There was the floater for the and 1 by New Mexico in the second half. Those are 5 big points in what was a 1 point game.
Cincinnati lost by one but there is a giant problem with this team that is being picked lately. There are 3 offensive options for the Bearcats, Cashmere Wright, Sean Kilpatrick and JaQuon Parker. When one of them is off the floor, Cash was in foul trouble, the offense goes in the tank.
Justin Jackson and Cheikh Mbodj can't get their own shot. You have to set them up with the ball near the basket or they have to get put backs. Count David Nyarsuk in that as well.
Titus Rubles has a lot of offensive skills. He is a very good passer, not tonight, but he has great vision. Unfortunately, he can't hit the broad side of a horse's ass. He's 7 for his last 28. That's counting his good game against Wright State. He's missed his last 18 three point attempts.
Ge'Lawn Guyn and Jermaine Sanders aren't any kind of aggressive offensively.
The only other person I haven't named is Shaq Thomas. He has shown some flashes that he can be a scorer. I am not the biggest fan of Jeremiah Davis, but the team needs his swag. They need someone who is going to come off the bench and shoot the ball. They don't even have to score. They just need to shoot.
UC attempted 64 shots. Sean Kilpatrick and JaQuon Parker had 36 of those. That's 56% of the shots by just 2 people. And neither one of them was remotely efficient. They made 10. That was half of the UC field goal total. Add in Cash and there are 14 of the 20 field goals and 42 of the 64 attempts. That means the rest of your team is going 6-22. That's not good enough. The rest of the team had 0 free throw attempts. Not a one.
There is a serious problem with the Cincinnati offense. Things look great when you have the big 3 on the court in an open game. We've seen it with Alabama, Xavier, Wright State and against New Mexico, when you slow Cincinnati down and force them to run offense, UC really struggles. Mick loves his starting lineup, but I think it has to change. You can't do this in Big East play. The defenses are better. The opponents are bigger. I think it's time for a Rubles for Jackson switch. Shaq Thomas should be seeing most of the minutes Guyn or Sanders would. It's time to tighten things up. Just because UC is 12-1 doesn't mean they are destined for a great season. I hope the men outside of the big 3 got a little reality check tonight. UC isn't going to go far if they don't show up. We need everyone along for the ride. It's Big East time. No time to hide from the spotlight.
One of the major reasons Cincinnati dropped this game was because they missed roughly 25 shots in the paint. It was unbelievable in a sense. Except we've seen this happen before. I don't know what all you can say about it. UC scored just 9 two point baskets. Not even all of those were in the paint. This game was really frustrating to watch.
Another reason for the L, just 4 free throw attempts. All of them came in the second half. Like I mentioned, none of them from the other members of the team who aren't the 3 amigos. You really can't have that happen.
Justin Jackson went 0-6 from the field. I'm pretty sure all of his shots were second chance put back attempts. I don't actually know what he does on offense when he doesn't have the ball in his hands. Jackson had a big time defensive game with 8 rebounds, 3 steals and 1 block. Plus, he gave us some JUSTIN JACKSON MEAN FACE
I love you Go Bearcats photographer who caught that. You rock. Jackson gave a lot in his 21 minutes. I'm disappointed that last season it looked like we saw his game evolving and this season it looks like he's back to freshman season JJ.
I don't really know what to say about the game Cheikh Mbodj had. He had 10 rebounds, 6 offensive. But he only had 3 shot attempts and 4 points. You expect your center to have 10-12 points if he grabs 6 offensive rebounds. Mbodj played 31 minutes and 3 big time blocked shots. But he was abused by Alex Kirk in the second half. Kirk put him on a poster with a follow dunk. Mbodj is just a weird player. How weird? He actually made this shot:
That shot would have won the game, but it happened a second after the horn. No one really thought it counted. Especially Mick Cronin, who walked to shake hands a half second later.
Mbodj did have some post up chances and he didn't get the ball. The guards don't look inside. At all. I can't say I especially blame them. The only guy who passes to the bigs is Titus Rubles. Cincinnati had 11 assists on 20 field goals. They had 11 turnovers. This team should be racking up assists and having a high assist turnover ratio. Instead, they don't rack up assists and their assist turnover ratio is 10th in the Big East. You would think a team with it's 4 best players being the primary ball handlers would pass a lot. You would be wrong.
Cashmere Wright had a pretty decent game. He only saw 27 minutes of action. When Mbodj sees more court time than Cash does, you know there is something wrong. Cash was the 1 player who shot well. He was 4-6, 3-5 from 3. He made the 3 that put Cincinnati up 54-53. Wright had 4 assists to 2 turnovers and 3 rebounds. He also had a steal. Cincinnati really missed him in the first half. He's so important to this team.
Sean Kilpatrick had himself a day to forget. He couldn't get anything to fall from 2. He was 1-9 from inside the arc. He was 4-13 from 3, which isn't very good either. He had 4 boards, 2 assists and 1 steal. We are up to 5 straight games where SK has shot 33% from 3 or worse. 3 of the last 4 games he's missed double digit shot attempts. I don't know if it's the pressure of being the star of the team. I don't know if it's having to take on such a big burden offensively. I don't know if it's just one of those things. Hopefully SK can work his way out of it. I believe in you, Killa.
JaQuon Parker was good from 3. He hit 3-5. He was not good from 2. He was 2-9. He had 6 rebounds and 2 assists. But he had 4 turnovers. He had a key one late in the game. Parker doesn't seem to be the type of player that should take such a high volume of shots. Maybe it's just me who thinks that. He busted his ass to get the rebound when New Mexico missed. Forget the shooting, that's what I love about JaQuon Parker. My favorite play of his is in the Big East tournament a few years ago against Louisville. There was a miss from the left corner. Parker ripped the ball away from Kyle Kuric, who has a few inches on Park, scored and was fouled. UC won that game on the back of that play. The rebound tonight vaguely reminded me of that one. I love JaQuon.
Would you all be mad if I said JaQuon was a slightly more efficient Dion Dixon?
Titus Rubles had his troubles getting the ball to fall in the basket. I mentioned it earlier so I won't dog him twice in the same piece. Rubles wasn't really rebounding tonight, 2, didn't really pass very well, 1 assist and turned the ball over a lot, 3 times. He only saw 15 minutes.
Shaq Thomas is going to be a player. I keep saying that because I really believe it. He was 2-5, but it seemed like all 3 of his misses came off the rim in a cruel fashion. He had a pair of steals and started a couple of breaks. He's really starting to put it all together. With his size and athletic ability, he's a match up nightmare for a lot of teams. I hope he keeps coming along.
Guyn, Sanders and Nyarsuk had 2 points on 2 shots in a combined 18 minutes. They added nothing.
I found it very interesting that Mick went to Parker at the point when Cash picked up his second foul. If he doesn't trust Ge'Lawn Guyn to be the back up point guard now, is he going to next year?
The crowd tonight was very solid. 10,627. Hopefully that's the low mark for the rest of the season.
New Mexico is a solid team. This should be a huge win for them. Alex Kirk looked like he had some moves around the basket. Kendall Williams and Tony Snell were not afraid to shoot. Snell had an awful day, 4-15, but he hit the biggest shot of the game. Williams was 4-7 from deep. That was a large part of his game high 16 points. He had 5 turnovers though.
Would have been nice to keep that top 10 ranking, but we all knew this wasn't a top 10 team. Yet.
Like I said, that was a solid team. We knew something like this could happen. UC won't be catching '76 Indiana this year. Maybe next year.
Bring on the Big East.
Photos via Go Bearcats