Coming off a big win against SMU, I think we all expected a little let down. The way the Bearcats came out, it looked like Larry Davis and co. did a good job preparing for this one. Cincinnati jumped out to a big early league and then forgot that a game has two halves. The peak of my anxiety came off a three pointer from Troy Holston Jr. putting the Bulls within one (50-51), with under two minutes to go... gulp.
Cincinnati's defense gets a solid "meh" on the night. They held an offensively challenged USF team to 58 points, but allowed 45.3% shooting. The offense left much to be desired. Last night we shot a season high 23 three-pointers (we also shot 23 against Houston). Making the threes was great for Kevin Johnson and likely won the game, but I worry that it might be like when someone with a gambling issue hits a moderate payout - It feeds the addiction. Kevin Johnson has shot only 31% from three this year, which is less than Caupain (38.9%), Cobb (34%), and even Morman (33.3%). Though we view KJ as a three-point shooter, percentage wise he is closer to Quadri Moore (30.8%) or Shaquille Thomas (30%). At this point, I want KJ to keep shooting the rock. He can knock it down and based on some off court things I've seen I think he is just going through some confidence issues. Playing for your hometown University has to be tough, hopefully he will turn it around.
Cincinnati came out with energy, but definitely let the 16 point lead go to their head. They relaxed and USF responded. Fortunately, this letdown happened against USF and not Xavier or Tulsa. It is good for learning experiences like this to happen in very winnable games, or "learning experience" turns into a euphemism for loosing.
Tonight, Farad Cobb led the way with 16 points. He almost seems more comfortable shooting from a couple feet behind the arc than a more traditional three. I looked for a breakdown of his percentage by distance, but couldn't find it. It would be interesting to see how well he actually shoots from back there.
Kevin Johnson, despite my aforementioned concerns, contributed an additional 11 points to go along with 3 assists. Bl-Octavious Ellis filled up the stat sheet with 4 blocks, 8 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, and two steals. What the box score won't tell you is about how Jermaine Sanders stepped up late to help lockdown USF's biggest offensive weapon.
This one was scary, but Cincinnati pulled out the "w". Unfortunately, Cincinnati still fell in RPI this morning (from 25 to 30). Despite what Davis said, how much you win by MATTERS. The BPI metric considers it as do voters of the various polling systems. All those metrics are then used by the selection committee when they pick who makes the tournament and seeding. I think Davis has to know that, so maybe he said that just to get the players to ignore. Side note - I am hearing reports that wins and losses during the Larry Davis Administration will count for Mick Cronin's career wins and losses.
As you just heard from Larry Davis, it sounds like Gary Clark is going to be alright. He had 11 points and 8 rebounds last time against Temple, so hopefully he is good to go by Tuesday. Ellis had a mild injury scare as well. These little scares serve as reminders of how critical Ellis and Clark are to this team. Everyone else, except for Caupain, seems somewhat replaceable. I guess you could argue DeBerry could replace Ellis or Clark, which I would somewhat agree with. He has been playing better and better - Surprisingly so, but he isn't ready health wise for serious minutes.
Next up Cincinnati heads to Philly to take on the Temple Owls. A win there would give some separation between Cincinnati and Temple in the AAC standings and would help give UC a better AAC tournament seed (yes, it is time to start thinking about conference tournaments). After that, the Bearcats welcome Tulane to Fifth/Third Arena for a Valentine's Day Battle, and then they renew their rivalry with the Xavier Blue Blobs, or is it Musketeers? It is hard to tell with two completely unrelated mascots.
- Daniele "Da" Bologna