Cincinnati went into halftime shooting 63.6% from the field, including 66.7% from three. If you are reading this blog, you likely have high enough of a basketball IQ to assume the Bearcats were up big at the half... but you would be wrong. Yes, the Bearcats shot the ball great, but they only took 11 shots in the entire half!!! Much of that had to do with their 13 first half turnovers, some of which was from good SMU defense and some of which was more from boneheaded offense plays from Cincinnati.
Then something happened... Cincinnati started playing offense. How much so? Cincinnati more than doubled their first half total, scoring 20 in the first half and 42 in the second. After 13 turnovers in the first half, Cincinnati had a respectable 4 giveaways in the second. To be honest, it looked like SMU got tired. In the first half, they looked quick and energetic, but in the second, their defense was nowhere near as intimidating.
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Although the Bearcats offensive turnaround was definitely the story of the game, this game was still won by good ole' fashion Cincinnati defense. The Bearcats held SMU to just 54 points, 16 points under their season average. Additionally, SMU shot just 36.5% from the field (49.1% season average). As Bob Knight pointed out again, Cincinnati's defense was simply smothering. SMU's offense was dependent on offensive put-backs and very quick 2-3 pass sequences to get open dunks, neither of which was frequent enough to cause enough of a problem.
Jermaine Sanders in the starting lineup continues to look like a brilliant decision, that I honestly never would have made. As Bearcat fans, I think we get caught up with the potential we see in the flashes of greatness from Shaquille Thomas. Having watched him grow over the last few years, this transition is really hard to watch. Larry Davis decided to go with consistency, and it has paid off. Jermaine Sanders had 15 points tonight on 6-10 shooting with a 9 rebound bonus.
Helping Sanders were Troy Caupain and Farad Cobb, both with 14 points. Octavious (or Blocktavious) Ellis had 4 blocks along with 6 points and 7 rebounds. The CO2 level of Cincinnati raised tonight as the city held their breathe when Ellis went down with a knee issue. Fortunately he was able to return to the game, but you never know how those things will progress - Especially with big men.
Gary Clark only played 18-minutes tonight. I have no idea why. I think he could have kept SMU off the offensive boards a little more, but I'll take the win. If you know something I don't, meet me in the comments section.
On top of the national television audience of ESPN watching tonight's game; Tony Romo, Jason Garett, and Demarco Murray were in the house tonight, but more importantly - so was Titus Rubles. Next up, the Bearcats take on last place USF at home in 5/3 Arena. After that is Temple (2/10) and Tulane (2.14). After that is Xavier.
-Daniele "Da" Bologna