When you make a list of the hottest teams in the nation, Cincinnati is on it. When you make a list of the best defensive teams in the nation, Cincinnati is on it. When you make a list of the teams that are looking dangerous in March, UC is on it. It's fitting yesterday was Thursday because last night's performance, atmosphere and feeling harkened back to the good ol' days of Cincinnati basketball. It's annoying how most UC fans, me included, seem to live with a foot in the late 90s because that's when Cincinnati basketball was kick ass. The past three years have seen a couple of tournament appearances, a Sweet 16, a Big East championship game appearance, but UC was always in the second tier. They weren't Syracuse, Pitt, Louisville, Georgetown, Notre Dame. They were on the level under that. This year's squad would be in that group. It's shown with how they've swept the American conference so far. UC may still be a second tier team, but they are a second tier team nationally, not in their league. UC is in the same boat as Villanova, another team who has experienced great success with the dissolution of the Big East as we knew it. Just like Villanova, UC lost on the road to a good team and were bombed by a Big East team. These are exciting times when UC is highly comparable to another 2 loss, top 10 team.
Also greatly exciting was last night's win. At one of the later timeouts, I tweeted out that this game was the best and why college basketball was awesome. You had a crowd going bananas, you had two highly competitive teams going down to the wire in the probable spotlight game of the night. It's what college basketball is all about.
I think there was a clear turning point in this game. It was 46-41, UConn was answering every UC attempt with a bucket. Lasan Kromah scored an 'and 1' to prove the point to give us that margin. Kromah had a layup blocked by Justin Jackson, the ball was deflected by Titus Rubles just enough that Shabazz Napier couldn't get it, the ball flew towards midcourt where Sean Kilpatrick picked it up for a dunk. The place came unglued. So did UConn. Ryan Boatright made a bad decision to try and save the ball under his basket, which turned into a Justin Jackson dunk. UC didn't take the lead right away, it took a couple minutes before the Sean Kilpatrick 3 dropped. The message of that sequence was the Cincinnati was not going away, UConn was going to have to put them down. The Huskies couldn't. Cincinnati won.
Sean Kilpatrick. 26 points - 8 of 15 shooting - 5-8 from 3 - 5-7 free throws. 12 rebounds, 11 defensive. 6 assists against 4 turnovers. Efficiency of 29 according to BB State. He's an All-American.
Kilpatrick played all 40 minutes. He became the third player in UC history to score 1,900 career points. He's playing like a superstar. Kilpatrick is finally getting the national attention that we knew he's deserved the last few years. I'm happy for him, I'm proud of him as a fan who's watched him develop 4 years. I love watching him play. This team is his legacy. Cincinnati didn't make the tournament before Sean Kilpatrick suited up. He's leaving them in a year they've gone 22-2 and are in the running for a protected seed. Love you, Sean Kilpatrick.
Justin Jackson is only surprising these days when he's not changing the game or being highly efficiently offensively. 15 points on 7 of 10, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks, 0 turnovers. Jackson played 34 minutes. He's transformed himself like the team has transformed itself. Justin Jackson is the heart and soul of the team. When he's running all over the court, throwing down dunks, blocking shots, giving us mean faces, the rest of the team feeds off it. Where would we be without Justin Jackson?
Titus Rubles had a pretty quiet game of 4 points on 1-4, 2-4 at the line, with 5 boards, 2 assists to 1 turnover and a steal. After just clanking a pair of free throws with UC up 3, Rubles pulled down a huge board after a UConn miss. He didn't have anyone to pass the ball to after the board. It looked like he didn't want the ball. Looks were deceiving. After getting some help from the front of the rim on the first free throw, the second was money. Doesn't matter how much you score, it matters when you score. Titus Rubles, as he's done all year, scored at the right time.
Ge'Lawn Guyn put up a very solid 7-5-4 assist to 1 turnover-2 steal-1 block performance. The shooting was a little shaky at 3-9. But Ge'Lawn Guyn hit two of the biggest shots of the game. After assisting Kilpatrick on a bucket, Guyn pulled down a board and scored in transition. With 1:50 left and UC up 2 with the shot clock winding down, Guyn drove and threw up some shot put looking prayer off the glass. Two points that were gigantic.
Guyn has really played well as the season has progressed. He's played really well as Troy Caupain has cooled off. This was one of the best games of Guyn's career. 7-5-4-2, man that's a great line.
Jermaine Sanders has not shot the ball well lately. He went 1-5, 0-3 from 3, for 4 points. Sanders had 2 boards and an assist. After not attempting a free throw the last two games, Jermaine went to the line with UC up 1 and 18 seconds left. He nailed them both. Money.
Jermaine's only field goal was on a jumper where he passed up a look from 3 for a step in shot. That's something I would like to see a little more out of Sanders. Maybe that's something that happens when Kilpatrick leaves and there is more of scoring burden placed on him.
Shaquille Thomas had a very quiet game with 4 points on 2-3 shooting and 1 board. He scored early in the game and early in the second half. That was it. You would like more than 8-3-1 from Sanders and Thomas.
Just 12 minutes for Troy Caupain. He went 1-3 for 2 points. He had a layup roll out. Troy had 2 steals but 2 assists to 3 turnovers. Troy got stripped with 12 minutes left and didn't play again. Hopefully this is just a small thing and not a big thing for Troy.
Jermaine Lawrence returned with 9 minutes of action. He was very active, drawing a couple fouls on Amida Brimah. Lawrence missed a jumper and went 1 of 2 at the line. He had a rebound and blocked a shot. It was nice seeing him back.
This is a really short team depth wise. 4 guys playing ~30 minutes and the fifth is Thomas or Sanders or Guyn or Caupain playing 20+. It has to avoid foul trouble and for the most part it did. Justin Jackson had 4 fouls, but thankfully he got his 4th with around 7 minutes left and it wasn't a major, major blow.
I said it earlier but it bears repeating, the crowd was fantastic.
They announced 12,432 but it sounded like more. It was awesome. 3 more left to bring that level of pain to the opposition.
This sign is probably my favorite sign. It was made by Courtney Farrell, although she is not holding it.
Getty Images via
Lasan Kromah for the Huskies was huge. He went 6-11 for 13 points. UC could not handle him. Kromah had 2 assists to a turnover and 2 steals. He was UConn's most efficient player.
UConn's most efficient player certainly was not Shabazz Napier (pictured). Shabazz made some great plays. He also took some really bad shots. Napier scored 16, but on 5 of 19 shooting. He was 2-12 from 3. Even then, you have to wonder why the last 3 point shot UConn took was a play to Boatright, who passed to Giffey.
Speaking of Giffey, didn't get out of the way fast enough.
UConn hit 39% for the game. The Huskies made 50% of their twos and 24% of their threes. In hindsight, they should have shot more twos.
We get to do all of this again when UC heads to Dallas for what I'm anticipating will be a bloodthirsty crowd for a huge meeting with SMU. Love this time of year. Too bad UC plays 3 games the rest of the month after Saturday.
Photos via Cincinnati.com / Joseph Fuqua II and Go Bearcats / Ashley Kempher
Box score by BB State