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Bearcats Tame Wolfpack

The Cincinnati Bearcats finished their last game of 2014 earlier today against the NC State Wolfpack. Cincinnati went to Raleigh and got another big non-conference victory, 76-60.

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Bearcats came out firing on all cylinders, hitting 8 of their first 9 shots. In the first half the Cincinnati Defense was on display; forcing turnovers, getting steals, earning shot clock violations, and at one point didn't allow a field goal for over four minutes until Ellis goaltended a shot in the paint. In fact, the Bearcats never led by less than 10 points after halftime.

Though a lot went well, the story of this one was the Bearcat's offense. Cincinnati scored 76 total points, which is their second highest point total of the season (78 against Stony Brook). They shot 54% from the field with 9 turnovers. A host of Bearcats had great games offensively, and I will touch on  few of them.

First off, Shaq Thomas was on attack mode on his way to tying his career high in scoring. He had a game high 15-points on 5-for-10 shooting. The Shaq Thomas spin move was on full display as he used it on a few occasions. He sometimes tiptoes the line between freakishly athletic and out of control, and today he showed off the athleticism. I still would like to see a little more arc on his 15-foot jump shot.

Troy Caupain finished second on the team in scoring with 13, on 5-for-8 shooting. Along with his scoring, Troy grabbed 4 boards, 2 steals, with 2 assists. Troy's biggest impact; however, won't be found on the stat sheet. When NC State tried to press, Troy was cool and calm. He seems more comfortable with a full-court press than he does playing against a half-court zone. Like Shaq, Troy was in attack mode today working the pick-and-roll very well. He did a good job waiting for the hedge defender to leave him and his man to start to come back to defend Troy, and then attacked the basket. In the pick-and-roll, getting a feel for when the defense is most vulnerable can be tricky, and Troy is figuring it out. Caupain got into a little bit of foul trouble, but Cobb and Sanders were able to put in valuable minutes while Caupain sat out late.

Octavious Ellis was the final Bearcat to score in double-digits, despite limited playing time due to foul trouble. He rounded out his stat sheet with 7 boards, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block. Ellis's potential upside is very high, as the ESPNU announcers noted multiple times. That being said - He has got to stop getting into foul trouble and stop goaltending. Sometimes it seems like he wants to get the ball at the peek of it's arc for the ooohs and aahhs from the crowd. That puts a lot of pressure on the officials to make the call.

Clark, Cobb, and Deberry all contributed 9 points each as well. Cobb, along with Caupain, handled the press really well tonight. He hit a big deep three when NC State looked like they were about to go on a run. In contrast, Clark has officially made it clear to me that shooting a three is out of the question. He has shot a total of two threes all year, and I wouldn't be surprised if at least one of those had to do with the shot clock. That is about the only negative about Clark's game, and I don't know he really needs to add the 3. It seems pretty clear that Clark is the future of this team. At this point, bulking up and working on free throws should be at the top of his priority list. He had some trouble with Cronin's defensive scheme earlier in the year, but seems to really be getting the hang of it. Along with Ellis, he has been great at fixing defensive mistakes as a help side shot blocker. Side note - Clark played his high school ball in nearby Clayton, NC. The ESPNU announcers reported that Clark had over 200 friends and family in the house. If that is true, this kid needs to run for President in a few decades.

Coreonae DeBerry continues to impress the Hell out of me. He still relies on his size a little too much and really only has the one move (his baby hook across the paint).  He also likes to get the ball at the top of the key and sprint to a right handed layup, but that play still scares the crap out of me every time. As he continues to develop up-and-unders and other big man moves, he is going to be a force. His comically long arms and bearlike paws that he calls hands, make him a defensive nuisance.

I also can't say enough about the Cincinnati defense. Trever Lacey's performance tonight for the Wolfpack, was a microcosmic example of what the Bearcats did to NC State's team offense. Lacey was held to 6 points (averages over 18), 0 rebounds, shot 1/8 from the field, and 0/3 from three. He also had 5 turnovers and hit his ONLY field goal with 1-minute to go in the game. The Bearcats held the Wolfpack as a whole to 45.8% shooting, 0/5 from three, forced 13 turnovers, and out rebounded NC State by 5. Cincinnati executed a fantastic game plan. NC State on the other hand seemed a little unprepared. They appeared caught off guard by the Bearcats pressure and played man-to-man defense, and at this point, if you don't play zone against Cincinnati then someone on your coaching staff is not paying attention.

All-in-all, a big non-conference win for the Bearcats. Yes, beating a talented NC State team is always good, but the way Cincinnati did it is even better. Congrats to Larry Davis and crew on another big win. Hopefully, Mick will be back on the sidelines sooner than later. Next up the Bearcats open up conference play against a very tough SMU squad this Saturday at home in Fifth/Third Arena.

-Daniele "Da" Bologna