Since their three game skid, the Bearcats have won all of their last three games by double-digits. During that three game win streak, Cincinnati has held opponents to an average of 53-points per game. The real story; however, has been on the offensive end of the floor where for each of the last four games a different Cincinnati player has posted a career high in the scoring column. Gary Clark scored 14 in the loss to Xavier, Shaquille Thomas dropped 18 on Houston, Octavius Ellis had 20 against UCF, and Kevin Johnson scored 15 tonight.
The announcers tonight argued that the spreading of the Cincinnati offense has one major advantage and one major disadvantage. Advantage - Opposing teams can't game plan against Cincinnati very well. Disadvantage - Cincinnati doesn't know who to give the ball at the end of games. Of course, both of these are true for the casual fan, but as UC bloggers we are the fan base elite. For the former, the was you game plan for Cincinnati is with a 2-3 zone. We have been saying this since back when the season was young. As for the end of the game, the Bearcats have clearly been going to Gary Clark (though sometimes too early).
To the announcers credit though, this Cincinnati team has been a confusing one. Even for the more intense and over involved fans, this team is not what many think. You may think Octavius Ellis (9.6) or Farad Cobb (8.0) are leading the team in scoring, but it is actually Troy Caupain (9.8). You probably think Octavius Ellis (6.8) is leading the team in rebounding, but it is actually Gary Clark (6.9). You pessimistically think Shaquille Thomas (1.4) is leading the team in turnovers, but it is actually Troy Caupain (2.2) and Shaq is fourth. Heck, you likely believe that behind Troy Caupain (41.9%), Kevin Johnson (32.4%), Jermaine Sanders (26.7%), or Farad Cobb (32.8%) is the next best three-point shooter, but it is actually Shaquille Thomas (33.3%). You might even think that Gary Clark (1.1) is leading the team in steals based on his routine steal and dunk, but it is actually Troy Caupain (1.3). If you are a fan, at least a couple of those were likely true for you. The morale is, please don't be so quick to ridicule announcers or analysts, like I have seen so many times from the Cincinnati faithful Social Media base. That was unnecessary, but hopefully somewhat informative. Back to the game...
Cincinnati jumped out to an early lead and never really looked back. The RallyCats showed up in full force. They were even joined by big time Cincinnati basketball commit Jared Evans. During the entire contest you could hear various Cincinnati chants throughout the game. If you were listening on radio and were unable to watch ESPNews, you maybe even forgot that it was a road game from time to time because of the crowd discrepancy. Here's a Tweet from @CoachCroninUC on the topic:
"Rallycats making a huge difference. Best thing I have seen as the Cincinnati coach. Pizza on me when you get home!!!"
Cincinnati shot 47% from the field as well as 47% from three. Last time they played Tulane Cincinnati shot a dismal 0-11 from behind the arc, so tonight's 7-15 was a nice change. On top of the three point shooting turnaround, Cincinnati outrebounded the Green Wave an outstanding 40-26, largely due to the glass-cleaning leadership of
bash glass-brothers Octavius Ellis (10 boards) and Gary Clark (9 boards). The Bearcats also had 18 assists on 25 field goals, which is fantastic. That suggests an actual organized offense with ball movement and everything. Gary Clark led all Chris Paul impersonators with 5 assists, assisted by Troy Caupain with 4 assists. In fact, everyone who played more than 1-minute (Zack Tobler) had an assist. Those assists stats are pretty cool. Did I mention assists?
Kevin Johnson led Cincinnati with a career high 15-points. It is clear watching him play recently how badly he wants to lead this team. After picking up his 3rd foul early tonight he was begging Davis to leave him in. Ellis backed KJ up with 14-points of his own to go along with 10 boards, 2 assists, and a perpetually problematic 4 fouls. The fouls didn't matter tonight, but they might sometime in the future. Shaquille Thomas also continued his stellar play with 11-points tonight on 4-6 shooting. Ever since Jermaine Sanders took his starting spot and then gave it back, Thomas has been playing much, much better. I guess he realized that he couldn't start on just potential alone and had to actually start realizing his potential. Over the last three must-win games, Thomas is averaging 14-points and shooting 68% from the field (15/22). He has also made a habit of dunking on people.
Tonight was a bigger win than most Bearcat fans would like to admit. Yesterday, in Joe Lunardi's latest bracket, he had Cincinnati as the final Bubble team with a bye in the "first" round (aka Cincinnati was the 5th worst team he considered "in" the tournament). Tonights win may have given Cincinnati just enough of a cushion to lose one against Tulsa or Memphis and still make the tournament, but let's hope it doesn't come to that.
-Daniele "Da" Bologna