Nebraska was pesky. Terran Petteway and Ray Gallegos kept things interesting for about 30 minutes, but the Bearcats were able to put the Huskers away at the free throw line and hold off for a 15 point win Saturday at Fifth Third Arena. Oh, in front of the largest (albeit quietest) crowd of the year of 8,257. Not great but not horrible. Would have been well over 10,000 if not for the students either being in Charlotte for the Belk Bowl or away on Christmas break. Here's hoping we see regular crowds in excess of 10K once conference play starts...although I'm not hopeful for a very big crowd on New Year's Day. Combining hangovers and again the students being off campus, I can't see that being a very big home court advantage for UC.
What I Liked:
- Justin Jackson continues to make me look bad. And I'm fine with that. I'm hoping to make one humongous apology at the end of the season. It's amazing how quick he is and now that he's actually making post moves AND shots at the same time his confidence is growing. I still think 14 shots is too many (especially when he only made 6), but I'll take this over the non-existent Jackson from New Mexico and Eggs.
- Sean Kilpatrick finally learned. Instead of continuing to chuck threes, he decided the foul line was the way to win the game. And it was. Despite shooting just 2-13 from the field, Kilpatrick charged at the rim drawing foul after foul and marched time after time to the foul line making 17 of 18 on the day. That is what he should have been doing all along. The new rules allow players like SK to drive to the bucket more and it showed Saturday. He needs to keep this up. No, free throws are not as exciting as three pointers, but they're pretty effective toward winning basketball games.
- The freshmen. Between Troy Caupain, Kevin Johnson, and Jermaine Lawrence we're going to have one heck of a class. Hopefully they all stay 4 years and we are still talking about them in 20 years and how much they all accomplished. Right now they're accomplishing more and more every game. Johnson scored a career high 11 points and all of them in the first half when UC was struggling (no shock) to put the ball in the hoop. Caupain continues to put distance between himself and Guyn as the best point guard. And Lawrence is settling quite nicely into his role grabbing big offensive rebounds and getting some putbacks.
- 25-30 from the foul line. Obviously most of that was Kilpatrick, but I'm pretty sure we'd all take 83% from the charity stripe every game.
- 10 rebound edge. Very quickly this team is turning into a rebounding machine. It started with the Pitt game we were all worried about. In the 4 games since the Crosstown embarrassment, UC has really turned the rebounding effort around.
- Jermaine Sanders deserves more time. Well he got 9 more minutes than starter Shaq Thomas yesterday but maybe he needs to start. Or...maybe he doesn't. He seems to be doing just fine in his reserve role right now. His rainbow three at the shot clock buzzer in the second half brought rain...in the form of tears from Husker fans. That was a huge dagger at a time the game was still relatively in the balance. And that's now three consecutive solid games from Jermaine at a time when some of us were wondering if the light would ever go on for him. He's been extremely active on defense, grabbing rebounds, and especially making shots.
What I Didn't Like:
- It seems Shaq Thomas and Ge'Lawn Guyn make regular appearances in this portion of the post. I'm fine with Mick continuing to start these two. They do have talent, well one more than the other but still. I can see Thomas continuing to start more than Guyn. Caupain is clearly the better point guard and scoring option. Yes, I realize Guyn is better on defense so I'm guessing this is why he still starts. But he got 8 minutes yesterday so what's the purpose of him "starting"? Thomas just has to be more aggressive. He shows it at times, but isn't consistent with it.
- That's really it. It's hard to find something else that was truly bad that I already haven't touched on. Seems like every negative was turned around to a positive...especially when you consider the score.
So again that's the non-conference portion of the schedule. I think 11-2 is satisfactory especially not really knowing what this team was going to be. Much like the football team, however, we still don't know just how good they are. I think they're good. I'm not sure they're REALLY good. They aren't great, but I don't think anyone was of that opinion to begin with. I think they're a tournament team especially since the conference will allow them to finish in the top 4 or 5 and at least be on the bubble. But the bubble has been so bad of late I simply cannot see barring a catastrophe this team not making the tournament come March.