Well the Bearcats probably won't be invited back to the Jimmy V Classic anytime soon, but at least they were able to scratch, claw, and squeak past a tough Pittsburgh squad last night. It was your typical Big East (you know, the REAL Big East???) battle where every possession is crucial and the unexplained happens. It won't go down in the annals of UC basketball as one of the most aesthetically pleasing games, but it could go a long way toward getting this year's team where it wants to go.
After ugly showings against New Mexico and that team from Norwood, UC was desperate for a win over a quality opponent. After all, moving to the AAC provides far fewer chances for those all important quality wins for the postseason resume. If they didn't beat Pitt, it was going to be very hard for anyone to believe they could knock off Connecticut, Memphis, or Louisville at all. In all honesty I still find it hard to believe that, but at least for one night they pulled off a good win.
So let's get to it...
What I Liked:
- Justin Jackson. Nearly all of it. Save for a few stupid fouls (nightly basis) he was tons better than he was against New Mexico and Eggs. And I do believe most of his points were off tip ins and follow ups. They were not created through post moves or awful bank shots. THIS is what Justin should be doing. They should NOT run offense through him but he should get his points off putbacks. Simple!!
- Clutch shot by Troy Caupain. The only shot he took of the night was at the shot clock buzzer and gave UC a 1-point lead with 5 minutes remaining. Hopefully that gives him confidence to shoot a little more.
- This team's heart. Most, if not all, Bearcats fans were fearing the worst Tuesday night. National stage, coming off a terribly embarrassing loss to the crosstown rival, undefeated Pitt. In 72 hours, the staff and team managed to put all of that behind and focus on the task at hand. Truly impressive.
- Team rebounding. Wow was that improved!! They had gotten absolutely dominated in the previous few games. We all knew it was going to be key and they really came through last night. It was a team effort no doubt and I'm sure something the coaching staff harped on since the Xavier game.
- Defense. A Bearcat staple through the years, it was evident in this game. Pitt got very few open looks and very few easy baskets. Much better than Saturday night.
- Titus Rubles. For all the grief he gets about his jump shot - and it is truly ugly - he actually made a 15 footer to give UC a lead down the stretch. And obviously his putback (hat tip to Justin Jackson for keeping it alive) to give UC the lead and the win with 4 seconds left was humongous.
- The play Mick drew up to get Sanders an easy backdoor bucket down the stretch.
- The defense Mick threw at Pitt on the last play. It was the first time all year (I believe I read that right) UC threw a 2-2-1 press on an opponent. Excellent late-game strategy.
What I Didn't Like:
- Offense. Duh. Brutal. Ugly. Awful.
- Free throw disparity. Part of this is on the officials, but part of this is on UC. There should be no way UC shoots 3 free throws in a game. Not when the officials are supposed to be calling more touch fouls and allowing players to get to the bucket. This can't continue.
- Kilpatrick sluggish in the first half again. Three games in a row he's been bad in the first half. Why is this? 1-7 last night and he's settling for way too many bad three-point attempts.
- Titus Rubles' ill-advised jumper. With a 3 point lead and the ball, Rubles decided to take a foul line jumper with a ton of time left on the shot clock. I believe the game clock was under 2 minutes as well. There was no need for that. Not in the first half. Not ever. He's not a good shooter. So don't shoot. Especially in that situation.
- The pass from SK to Sanders on the play I discussed up top. Any arc on the pass at all and Sanders is wide open for a layup. Instead SK threw a rocket that was easily stolen and Pitt converted it into a layup that gave them the lead. I believe it was the possession right after Rubles' awful shot.
- Shaq Thomas. Ugh. Guessing this is why Sanders played the majority of the late game minutes. Shaq was absent again. I know he's a sophomore, but he has so much more potential than this.
I'm sure I left out some ugly stuff, but quite honestly I am trying to be more positive. It's been a VERRRRRRY rough time for Cincinnati sports fans (all teams) lately and I'm tired of thinking about it. I'm extremely excited to be talking about a huge win for a change. Let's hope more of those come later in the year. Well, later in this calendar year at the Belk Bowl and later in the schedule year basketball-wise. Oh never mind. GO BEARCATS!