One of the many admirable things about Mick Cronin is that he will always go to bat for his guys. The most obvious way he does that is through the media. Mick brought up the fact that Sean Kilpatrick was playing at an All American level, unbidden in the middle of his usual weekly press conference. He was the first to approach the subject, he planted an idea, one that is likely to come to fruition.
But he does it in other ways too, through his actions and decisions. Through a ton of criticism from this space and the twitterati as well Mick has stuck with Ge`Lawn Guyn as his point guard for this team. He stuck with him early in today's game too, despite the lack luster returns on offense. But at the midway point of the second half Mick recognized that this team needed a spark, and he did something that he has been reticent to do this year. He played Kevin Johnson and Troy Caupain together.
For most of the year it has been an either or thing with the freshmen guards. If KJ came in for Sean Kilpatrick you could be sure Guyn would be the other guard. Likewise if Troy was on the floor it was SK opposite him. On Saturday against Rutgers with SK gassed and Guyn playing ineffectively Mick had no choice but to pair the freshmen together.
It worked in that game, and it worked against the Knights tonight. The pair scored 12 total points on 4 of 7 shooting, including the dagger in the final minute that finally punished UCF for playing the box and one. Those two came up huge and clearly have a great deal of chemistry together.
I have been banging the Troy-Capupain-needs-more-minutes drum for months. But it seems clear that relegating KJ to 9th man in an 8 man rotation status might have been one of the few missteps for Cronin this year. Now obviously it is irrational to expect another perfect shooting night from Johnson tomorrow, if he plays. But on a team where Mick so often gets nothing on offense from multiple pieces in his rotation. Whats the harm in giving KJ 5 to 7 minutes a half to see if he has something?
I doubt that Mick will alter his rotation to heavily to accommodate the burgeoning performance of Kevin Johnson, but he now has an ace up is sleeve in that KJ Troy pairing, because it is new, and therefore unexpected. It worked tonight, lets hope it can keep on working.