The big thing coming off the 10 point loss to Pittsburgh Saturday night has been the offense. The fans have been upset about the offense for a rather long time. I'm sure the coaches and players have as well. Mick has constantly said that Cincinnati needs to score 70 points. They haven't scored more than 65 points in regulation for a month. They've only had 2 Big East games where they have hit 70 points in 40 minutes. One of those was against DePaul. Do you know how many teams have scored 70 points against DePaul? All of them but 1. And that team scored 69 points.
Mick has said the offense isn't the issue. Well if the offense isn't the issue, that means the players are the issue because they can't make shots. If the players can't make shots, that means the offense is an issue. I know Cashmere Wright and Sean Kilpatrick can shoot the 3. Cash was great in November and December. It's February though. The things that worked against Maryland Eastern-Shore don't work against 20 win teams. Last year had 3 evolutions of the offense. We had the slow down and dump the ball in the paint offense, we had the press like hell on defense and run on offense stretch and we had the run and dump hybrid. I know that college coaches love the high screen because that's what every single team runs, but this team needs something different. I don't know if it's just as simple a case as they need shots to fall. I think they need a better way to get those shots.
Cronin questioning the toughness of the team is a big time call out for the game tomorrow night. This is a huge week with Villanova and Georgetown in the span of 4 days. I was pretty adamant about the game tomorrow being a game Cincinnati has to win. I still believe that. Villanova is searching for another big win and might have some confidence after crushing DePaul and South Florida. Cincinnati is probably still a lock for the NCAA tournament, but you don't want to be locked as an 8 or 9 seed. A 3 game slide this late in the year is not good. Time to turn the ship around.
The Bearcats have a losing record at home in Big East play.
Cincinnati had 5 assists on their first 8 made field goals. They finished with 8 assists for the game on 16 field goals. There were a ton of missed shots, but the ball movement stopped. Pitt went zone and Cincinnati seemed to have no answer. Which is odd because they tore up the Syracuse zone in the second half of that game.
Cincinnati was 5-25 in the second half. 1-16 from 3. They made 41% in the first half shooting 9 threes in 27 attempts. The over-reliance on the 3 ball showed. And it hurt. Charles Barkley always says "You don't live by the 3, you die by the 3." UC died a horrible death on Saturday night.
No field goals the last 9:21 is still hard to get over. It was 45-39 after Rubles had a 3 point play. The game ended on a 22-7 run. Awful.
The Cats hit 10-14 free throws in the second half and 16-22 for the game. They've now lost back to back games with 20 free throw attempts though. They had lost none before last week. When you make as many free throws as field goals, that'll get ya.
12 turnovers to 8 assists is pretty awful. 2 assists to 6 turnovers in the second half.
Sean Kilpatrick pretty much summed up the game with his performance. He was 5-8 for 15 first half points. He was 0-7, 1 free throw, 4 turnovers in the second. He made 1 basket after his hand injury. I don't know if it was a cut, a jammed finger or what. SK didn't station himself behind the 3 point line as much as he had been doing. He took 9 attempts, but he also took 6 two point attempts and 6 free throws. That's a pretty decent balance. He's just got to get the shots to fall.
Cashmere Wright was 2-12, 1-11 from 3. He had 2 assists against 3 turnovers. He had back to back 20 point games before his injury. One of them was on 17 shots, but it was still 20 points. He hasn't scored more than 6 points but once since his return. He's had 3 games where he's only made 2 field goals. He had a game where he made 1. His high since returning is 4 made shots in 13 attempts. He is a tough guy for playing hurt. He's just cold as hell right now. If anyone needs to park their ass at the foul line, it's him. He's 11-12 at the foul line since coming back. That's really good, but that's 12 attempts in 5 games. 7 of them were against Seton Hall. I said this a lot about Cash last year. He is too good a foul shooter to not get to the line. I know he's hurt with his knee and shoulder and god knows what else. He's not going to be what he was his sophomore year when he would fly at the basket. He's gotta score though. He's too important. The team is lost without him.
Speaking of lost, UC lost Justin Jackson after just 7 minutes with an ankle injury. His status for tomorrow is up in the air. He will probably play if he can. If he can't, he will not play. Those last 2 sentences were very unnecessary.
Cheikh Mbodj delivered a class Cheikh Mbodj bust game. 17 minutes, 4 points, 1 rebound, 1 block. He was bullied by Steven Adams in the second half. When Mbodj is good, he's a big boost to the team because it shows with his defense and some with his offense. When he has games like this, it's so tough to win because you are getting nothing from a guy on offense and nothing but fouls on defense.
At least he had a cool picture taken of him.
JaQuon Parker was locked up by the Panther d. He had 7 points on 2-4 shooting, 3-3 at the foul line. Parker had 2 big ones with UC down 5 and 2:37 to go. JaQuon is still averaging 10.5 points a game, which is a career high by a point. He's averaging 9.1 points a game in conference play. He averaged 8.8 last season. In fact, he's been almost the exact same player he was in Big East action last year. Some things are different, free throw and 3 point shooting, assists and turnovers, but the stats show he's not that much different. He's shooting on 18% of possessions. That number is at 21% for the season. A guy scoring a full point and a half below his average is a part of the reason the offense has been slacking.
#ParkerTravel. I swear it's been at least 4 games with one.
Titus Rubles picked things up pretty nicely. He scored all his 8 points in the second half. He was 2-9 from the field, including a missed 3 #clank, but he was 4-5 from the foul line. Rubles had a team high 8 rebounds. If he had any kind of jump shot, he would be a much different player. Instead, his J has abandoned him this year.
Shaq Thomas only played 9 minutes. He had 2 points on 1-3 shooting. I was hoping he would get some more run with Jackson injured. Oh well.
Ge'Lawn Guyn played 6 minutes but he was damn good in those 6 minutes. He had a 3 point play, he had a great pass that should have been a layup, he blocked a shot. He played very hard. Hard to give him minutes when you don't have room in the back court though.
Jermaine Sanders gave some productive minutes. He had that silky smooth 3 ball go down. He had 4 rebounds and an assist. Don't know how he is only a 50% foul shooter with that stroke though.
Kelvin Gaines and David Nyarsuk played 23 minutes. They had 6 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 block. They also had 1 foul. Here's the thing, neither one of them attempted a shot. You are playing 5 on 4 with them in the game. Especially with Gaines. If you don't throw an alley oop, neither one of them is going to score. They allowed Adams to play off of them and help out on the other guys inside.
I talked about them on Saturday night, but they deserve a little run now. Talib Zanna and Steven Adams were 9-12, 6-10 at the foul line for 24 points. Zanna did most of his damage the first half, Adams the second. Zanna had a game high 9 rebounds. Adams blocked 4 shots and changed numerous others.
Tray Woodall went 4-6 from 3 for most of his 14 points. He missed 2 huge free throws late, but UC couldn't take advantage. The 3 Woodall hit with 3 minutes left to put Pitt up 6 was the dagger.
Pitt was 18-27 at the foul line, but they made their last 6 to ice the game. Jerks.
White outs are stupid. I hope UC doesn't do another. Do a black out. Do a red thing. Don't do another white out. They did one last year and UC lost. They did one this year and UC lost. That's reason enough to stop. Another reason is that no one in the expensive seats wears white. Any 'let's all wear the same color' thing is dumb. When the people don't know about it and don't participate, it's dumber.
Hopefully the short, action packed week coming up gets this bad taste out of our mouths and replaces it with the sweet taste of victory. Go Bearcats.
Photos via Cincinnati.com. Thomas and Mbodj via Go Bearcats