Feb 23, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats guard Sean Kilpatrick (23) goes to the basket against the Louisville Cardinals guard/forward Kyle Kuric (14) in the first half in front of a sold out crowd at the FifthThird Arena. The Bearcats defeated the Cardinals 60-56. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE
The Bearcat community has shown a lot in the past 24 hours. Beating Louisville was not just a resume booster. Sure, it didn’t guarantee anything and it wasn’t an NCAA tournament clinching victory. But, it brought something back. Whether you were at the game or watching it on television, it was obvious Fifth Third Arena was as loud as it has been in recent memory. In fact, it reminded me of old times. It reminded me of dramatic conference battles in Conference USA against Marquette. But, this time we were the up and coming team. We weren’t the favorite with a hall of fame coach. We were the young, scrappy team that had to win the hustle plays to win. That was the difference in the game, and it shows how far the program has come.
The Bearcats fell off national radar in the mid 2000’s and after an NCAA tournament run last year, it seemed like Cincinnati was close to being back on the basketball map. Last night confirmed that the Cats are back. University of Cincinnati student Chris Gundrum had this to say after the game, "I can only describe the atmosphere as electric. People were on their feet, cheering almost the entire game. The most fun I’ve had at a UC game in a while." Chris wasn’t alone. In fact, Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino said it was "the best home court advantage we’ve seen this year." Coach Pitino might just be saying that to be respectful, but there is no doubt the UC crowd had an impact on the game.
I did not attend the game, but I can tell you that the crowd was simply stunning. At times, I had to make sure the court read "Cincinnati Bearcats." This win should get the city motivated to support UC as they look poised for a stretch run. Coaches, players and the student body all noticed that Fifth Third Arena had finally awoke from its’ seven year sleep. Coach Cronin has done a great job coaching the Bearcats. Lets hope the game last night wasn’t a one-time thing and more of a new standard in University of Cincinnati basketball. The season has been full of highs and lows, but hopefully last night completes Fifth Third Arena’s transformation into a place nobody wants to face the Bearcats. If so, when people refer to the "glory years", they will be talking about current teams and not teams of years past. The electricity in the arena was something to behold. Let’s hope it continues, not just for the duration of this year, but in upcoming seasons.
Just the thought of UC basketball returning to what it once was is enough to get any fan excited. The Bearcats are close to completing their transformation; just make sure you are there to see it.