At some point you have to figure the winning streak is going to come to an end. It may come Saturday at SMU. Wouldn't shock me. But it also wouldn't shock me if they found yet another way to pull it out. That's what this team does. They grind and grind and grind and find a way to win no matter the circumstances.
Despite getting practically nothing from anyone aside from Sean Kilpatrick and Justin Jackson, UC found a way to pull out a 63-58 win before the biggest, and loudest, crowd of the season. 12,432 watched the Bearcats get down 10 points in the first half but due to the unwillingness of its 3 senior leaders -Kilpatrick, Jackson, and Rubles- to lose games, found a way to "move the chains" and stay unbeaten in AAC play at 11-0.
What I Liked:
- It would be very easy to start with SK and JJ. But I'm going to prop up a guy who has certainly taken his lumps this season: Ge'Lawn Guyn. He was the most of unsung heroes last night. While Troy Caupain continues to struggle through his freshman doldrums, Guyn has really stepped up his play. 7 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, and just 1 turnover in 28 minutes. Not eye-popping but damn effective. His running bank shot (called it!) with the shot clock expiring in the final minutes was huge and kept UConn from being able to tie or take the lead at that point. I'd vote for more of this guy and hope Caupain can find his legs (and confidence) again very soon.
- SK. What can you say? He's been a beast. I hate "beast mode". Drives me nuts, but I'm an old guy I guess so whatever. But, if you need it, SK is in beast mode right now. I hope his back is strong enough because he's carrying this team. JJ is helping but SK is on another plane right now. And oh yeah, who knew he had such hops? I don't think I recall any dunks from SK prior to this year. Now I think he's got like 3 in the last 3 games. I like his aggressiveness.
- JJ wasn't great, but he was steady....until he got into foul trouble. And thankfully the scoreboard was wrong at the time it said he initially had 4 fouls, because he actually DID pick up his 4th foul 10 seconds later. 15 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks were just enough to help out SK so he literally didn't have to do it ALL. 7-10 from the field was really impressive especially considering he was really just 7-9 if you take out that "WTF was that?" shot he attempted in the first half. You know, the one that hit the side of the backboard?? I'm still scratching my head over that one.
- Jermaine Lawrence wasn't great by any stretch, but it was nice to see him out there for 9 minutes. He even hit a crucial front end of a 1-and-1 in the second half. Hopefully going forward he can find his game legs again (I'm sure his legs are jello today) and contribute more than 1 point and 1 rebound.
- Controlled the paint. 34-20 edge in scoring inside the lane
- Did I mention 12,432? yeah, that was so nice to see and hear. Big props to the students who were out in full force and loud from the tip. I wish they understood how important they were. They'd be there every game if so.
What I Didn't Like:
- The disappearing act of Shaq Thomas again. Ugh. 4 points and nothing else. NOTHING. Oops, sorry. 1 rebound. No assists. No steals. No blocks. Eventually this will kill UC. Thankfully it hasn't yet.
- Jermaine Sanders. See above. Yes, he played good defense in 25 minutes and hit 2 crucial free throws, but 0-3 from deep and 4 points total. These guys can have bad games, just not together and they've both been miserable in the 2 games since Louisville. This has to turn around. Now.
- Troy Caupain continues to look lost. Since Louisville, his game has been U-G-L-Y. He doesn't have to score, but 3 turnovers in 12 minutes is not good for a point guard. I know it's February and he's probably exhausted. The Bearcats are facing some quality time off over the next few weeks. It could be the best thing for the younger legs.
- At one point UC was 5-13 from the foul line. Thankfully that's an anomaly for this team and they made their final 6 straight but it was getting scary for a bit.
Off to Dallas to face SMU Saturday. This team thumped Memphis last week, but hey UC isn't Memphis. I fully expect this game to go to the wire. And I expect UC to take SMU out of their game. First one to 60 wins.