The loss on Friday night dropped UC to 19-7, 7-6 in the Big East, but it did more damage than just that. UC is 7-7 since December 27. 5 of those losses are home games. All of them are to potential NCAA tournament teams. 3 of them were very winnable games. Pittsburgh and Notre Dame pulled away from Cincinnati. The Bearcats had their chances to win against St John's, New Mexico and Georgetown. They clearly did not. Losing at home is something that great teams don't do. Cincinnati isn't a great team. You could probably say they have been a disappointment. The Bearcats can still finish strong, but right now they are in 10th place.
The notion of good loss and bad loss is an interesting thing. There are games like Presbyterian from last year. That was a horrible, horrible game, but at the end of the season that loss was forgotten about and UC got a 6 seed. A 6 seed was appropriate for a 24-10 team. This season, the bad losses have come at the hands of very good teams. Teams like New Mexico, Syracuse and Georgetown. Cincinnati had a chance to win all 3 games. They couldn't finish. The Bearcats left losses against the Realtime RPI 3, 9 and 16 teams on the table. Add any one of those to the RPI 14 win against Marquette and Cincinnati has a sparkling resume. Instead, UC has nothing but Ls and home Ls to show for it. Their RPI has dropped all the way to 41. Those losses are seed line drops. With how weak the middle of the tournament field appears, you don't want to end up a 7, 8, 9, or 10 seed. You want to avoid the big boys as long as you can. That's what UC isn't doing on the bracket projections. Glockner at SI and Lunardi at ESPN have them as a 9 and a 8 respectively. They both have UC playing Indiana in round 2. Or round 3 technically. That is not ideal. Things change all the time in this sport. UC has their fate in their hands. A 4-1 finish can be in the cards. The Cats have to go get it.
The huge issue around the team has become the offense. For good reason because they can't score. I don't know what about it can be fixed. I would play much faster than this team currently does. There was a time when Cashmere Wright said he had to get the ball across halfcourt in 4 seconds. That doesn't happen much these days. If it does, the Bearcats churn out a 20 second halfcourt set anyway. Some urgency is needed.
Urgency is needed and so is the ability to make shots. UC was 17-54, 31.5% on Friday night. Georgetown is a damn good defensive team. They lead the Big East in every field goal percentage stat. UC took some bad shots. They took some good shots. The thing those shots had in common is that they did not go in the basket. It's not like it's a difference between UC shooting a ton of 3s because while they do, they were also 13-30 from 2. They can't score inside. They haven't all season. They had trouble scoring from the free throw line. They had trouble scoring from 3.
The lack of inside presence is letting teams push the shooters back and crowd them. Jackson, Mbodj and Nyarsuk had 4 field goal attempts. Georgetown didn't respect them. What everyone is doing is making the guards beat you. That's really hard to do every night in a league like this. They need help. None is coming, it appears.
The offense being so poor right now is not being helped when the defense gets lit up like UC was in the first half. The Hoyas hit 12-26 from the field after starting 1-8. 8 of the Georgetown misses were from 3. Cincinnati's defense played great in the second half, but it wasn't enough to overcome the shaky first half. It sounds harsh to talk about a defense that gave up 62 points, but hey, it wasn't that good.
UC needs to force turnovers to get the offense going, but they are too over aggressive and it bites them. UC forced 6 turnovers in the first half. They forced 4 in the second half, but the Hoyas were 8-22. I would take the trade off.
Georgetown made 1 shot the last 5:36. It was the 3 that Markel Starks drilled from the Hoya bench with a defender draped over him.
Justin Jackson matched his career high in free throw attempts in the first half. He's been better at the line this year, but on Friday he was 3-8. Jackson was 1-3 from the field for 5 total points. He rebounded very well. He led the team with 8. 5 of those were offensive. Jackson had 3 blocks, 2 assists, and 1 steal. He also had 2 turnovers because hey, it's still Justin Jackson. Outside of the horrid foul shooting, it was a good game for Jackson.
Cheikh Mbodj had 7 rebounds and 5 blocks. He was 3-4 at the foul line for 3 points. He attempted 0 field goals. Despite his 4 offensive rebounds, he had 0 field goal attempts. Despite getting the ball off a miss 3 feet from the basket late in the game and UC needing points, he had 0 field goal attempts. He had 1 brutal turnover passing out on that play. It iced the game for the Hoyas. UC was down 5 at that point, it's not like he gave the game away. He needed to turn and shoot that though. He's 7 feet tall. Try and score.
Cashmere Wright broke the tie atop the leader board for steals. He's now the all time steals leader in UC history with 192. He had 3 of the 5 UC steals on Friday night. Congratulations to Cashmere on a great accomplishment.
The rest of his game was in line with his production lately. He was 3-6 from 2 and 2-8 from 3 for 12 points. He didn't attempt a free throw. I don't know how your point guard doesn't attempt a free throw. Wright had 3 assists to 2 turnovers. He needs 40 assists to get to 500. I'm not sure he is going to get there unless UC goes deep. He's had his lowest assist total in his 3 years of starting. He's had his lowest assist/turnover ratio as a starter. It's not like he's turning it over more, he's turning it over at a career low rate of 17%. He's just not getting assists. His assist numbers miss Yancy Gates.
Sean Kilpatrick was 5-6 from the foul line and had 4 assists along with 6 rebounds. Those were the positives. His shooting went back into a funk after a big game against Villanova. He hit 3-13, 1-7 from 3. He plays hard. He plays nearly the entire game. He just can't get shots to fall.
JaQuon Parker had a second big game in which he led the team in scoring. He scored 15 on 4-9 shooting, 1-3 from 3 and 6-9 from the foul line. Parker had 6 rebounds and nothing else on the box score. No assists, no turnovers, no blocks and no steals. Parker getting more involved in the offense is huge. The man Paul Dehner Jr covered it this morning. Parker stepping up is huge. Keep it going, Park.
Titus Rubles had 6 field goal attempts in his 20 minutes. I'm pretty sure all of them came like this:
If Nate Lubick was on him, Rubles was going to the basket. Rubles was 2-6 with 2 turnovers. Probably not the best of plans. Rubles was 0-3 at the foul line, which hurt. He racked up 3 fouls in his short time on the court. The big guys can't play without foul trouble.
Ge'Lawn Guyn played 2 minutes, but he packed a lot into it. He was 0-2, 0-1 from 3, had a rebound and 2 turnovers. Bang for your buck.
Jermaine Sanders played the crunch time minutes in an interesting development. Sanders was 0-5 from 3 and just 1-6 from the field. He attempted a couple of 3s late. I didn't like the first shot he took. The one that turned into the Parker miss. I thought Parker had a very good look and just made a very bad attempt. Sanders shooting the ball 6 times is a welcome sign.
David Nyarsuk played 3 minutes and had a dunk. Kelvin Gaines didn't play. Shaq Thomas played 2 minutes and did nothing.
The free throw shooting, as you might have noticed, was brutal. 17-30. This team can't leave points on the floor. Not like that. What was worse is that UC should have attempted way more than 30 free throws. Georgetown was in heavy foul trouble and put UC in the bonus halfway through the second half. UC attempted 9 free throws the last 18 minutes. Justin Jackson attempted 8 in the first half if you remember.
Dan Cronin says all the time on twitter that you win games with your stars. Georgetown certainly did that. Otto Porter had 16 points and 7 rebounds. He was 7-7 at the foul line. Markel Starks had a game high 17 points. D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera is the 3rd banana in that group and he had 14 points on 5-10 shooting. This is a team that can make a run in March. Their offense can get rolling. They have good passers. They have a go to star. They have a great defensive team. Georgetown is leading the Big East for a reason. They are very good.
Photos from Cincinnati.com. Parker photo via Go Bearcatsno comments