Well it wouldn't be a UC basketball game if it was pretty. That's just not how things work. It's not necessarily super exciting but 12-2 is 12-2 so it's effective. Wednesday night's game was no exception as the Bearcats had to rebound from a first half drought that left them down by 8 points at one point. But behind suddenly unstoppable Justin Jackson they were able to bounce back and were never seriously challenged in the second half on their way to a 1-0 American Athletic Conference record.
Obviously we'll see more as the conference season plays out, but SMU is apparently a decent team. They entered the game 10-2 and have started to open some eyes not only around the conference but around the country no doubt because of who is at the helm of their program - none other than Hall Of Fame coach Larry Brown who has given them immediate credibility with fans and recruits alike. SMU came in with a reputation of being stingy on defense, but the Bearcats flexed their defensive muscles as well and were able to out-athlete the Mustangs on this night.
What I Liked:
- Now get this straight, I can't ever truly apologize to Justin Jackson. At least not until the season is over. If I do it now, then he'll get complacent and we just cannot have that. So let's just agree that I will continue to make him my whipping boy until he carries (yes he is carrying this team right now) UC to a deep March run.
- I love this kid as anyone who reads my stuff would know. Shaq Thomas is THE guy who can have a massive impact on how good this team can be. As good as Jermaine Sanders has been (and he's been very very good lately), Shaq Thomas has another level of talent. Now, he didn't necessarily display it Wednesday night, but he was a lot more active and aggressive, to the tune of 8 free throw attempts. Chipping in 10 points is something UC will take every single night from Shaq. Now, if we can get him to collect more than 1 rebound and dish out an assist from time to time that would be fantastic. But, baby steps...
- Jermaine Sanders continues to provide a huge boost off the bench. 10 points (4-6 from the field), 3 rebounds, and solid defense is a recipe for a good sixth man and I think he's definitely taken that role right now.
- 31 free throw attempts. Huge. This has to continue. Especially when SMU shoots 9 on the night.
- Winning the turnover battle 17-8 is also large, especially with SMU coming in with the reputation of having a good defense. You win a game by 8 and score 6 more than SMU on those turnovers and you have a tell-tale stat.
What I Didn't Like:
- SK still struggling. First of all he's taking some awful shots. He's forcing the issue way too much. The banked in three aside he's not showing the patience he did in the early part of the season and he's forcing some contested shots that have no chance of going in. He's also pressing a little too I'd imagine. Hell when you miss the opening shot, a layup, off the tip you may be in for a rough night. I will give him credit for getting to the foul line 6 times (making all 6), but if you're 3-12 from the field, you better find another way to contribute especially when the offense is run through you every possession. And oh yeah, he turned it over 4 times. Ugly.
- Ge'Lawn Guyn with another stinker of a game. 2 ill-advised three point attempts and only 14 minutes of action. I think everyone gets the feeling Guyn is only starting because, well, they're winning. I'd bet if UC loses a few in a row Mick tries to shake things up. Caupain is the better overall player.
- Lost the rebounding battle 32-30. Not awful, but a departure from what we've seen lately. Still won by 8 so this isn't as bad.
- Only getting 16 minutes from Titus Rubles is bad. No he's not a good offensive player by any stretch, but he contributes so many other places. He needs to play more than 16 minutes and he needs to stay out of foul trouble. Much like JJ, he's far too valuable on the floor to this team to be watching from the bench due to silly fouls.
- Jermaine Lawrence will be a force one day. But he's not right now. Therefore he needs to take better shots. Shots he can make. Plus 0-2 and a VERY ugly 0-2 from the foul line doesn't help.
On to Memphis. This will easily be UC's stiffest test to date. They're better than Xavier, they're better than New Mexico, and they're better than Pitt...especially at home. Because I'm tired and lazy, I have no idea if UC has ever even played at the Fed Ex Forum in Memphis. I'm certainly glad they're not playing at that other house of horrors in Memphis. Either way, UC is going to have to grind this one out. Memphis plays 4 good guards so they will look to run. I'm guessing if the game is fast paced UC has no shot. It will have to be near the 60-55 range for the Bearcats to steal this one.