The Bearcats came out flat last night. No point in denying that. They were not up to the usual standard last night on the defensive side of the ball in the first half. Rutgers, is a pretty decent shooting side, their effective FG% is right at 50 per cent on the year, but as good as UC's defense is allowing a team to shoot that high a percentage is unacceptable. That being said credit to Rutgers for having a good game plan and sticking to it in that first half. In addition to shooting at a high clip they only turned the ball over 4 times compared to 7 for UC. In an earily similar circumstance at Saint John's UC put on a late spurt to take the lead into half time. In Queens Justin Jackson and BIGGIE McClain served as co-catalysts. Last nights run had Dion Dixon's fingers all over it.
In the second half the pressure began to take it's toll on the depth depleted Scarlet Knights team and the turnover numbers flipped 7 for Rutgers all in the first 10 minutes, and 4 for UC. The early half offensive woes continue for the Bearcats. It took 4 minutes and 33 seconds to put the first score on the board. The starters couldn't get on the board so Cronin went to the bench and predicatably Sean Kilpatrick answered the bell and jump started a run that put UC in firm control for the rest of the game.
The biggest difference between the first half and the second half in my mind is that UC went to their "Red" press, or maybe it was the "Black" press. I know it wasn't the "White" one, it was the one where they stick Darnell Wilks or The Wildebeest on the ball. That was the turning point in the game IMO, not the Technical Foul that Mike Rice incurred. Rutgers is a team that likes to play at a slow pace, in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted tempo rankings Rutgers is 259th because of that the White press that UC used in the first half played into their hands. The white press is designed to slow the game down which is exactly what Rutgers as a team of below average talent and depth (by Big East standards) needs to have a chance to win games. The other press with a man on the ball is designed to ratchet up the pace of the game and force increasingly quick decisions to be made. With a team like Rutgers chances are that the faster the decisions are made the worse they become.
That is exactly what happened in the second half. That first made bucket by Kilpatrick UC jumped into that press and proceeded to break of a 7-0 in 14 seconds, aided by the free throws from the aforementioned Rice technical. From that moment on UC had firm control for the remainder of the game. Rutgers wasn't really in the game down the stretch, but they weren't truly out of it until Rashad Bishops personal five point run around the 4 minute mark put the nail in the coffin.
I don't want to go as far as Mick Cronin did in calling the second half of this game the best half of Basketball UC has played this year. But it was more in line with what I expect from this team. UC stands at 18-3 and 5-3 in the conference with 10 games left to play. I still would like some more consistency from the offense but playing defense like this down the stretch will ensure a top half finish in the Big East and a trip back to the NCAA's.