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Cincinnati Ends Regular Season with Convincing Win Over Memphis

Since the Xavier loss, it has felt like the NCAA tournament had already started for the Cincinnati Bearcats. It seemed every win was a critical step for them to get in THE tournament. How did the Bearcats respond to the pressure? This team made up of seven newcomers and down an All-American+ went on a 5-game win streak removing any doubt they belong in the final field of 68. Tonight the Bearcats concluded that 5-game streak by dominating a respectable Memphis team, 77-65.

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Tonight was Jermaine Sanders final game in Fifth Third Arena. Though he didn't match the epic Titus Rubles Senior Day performance of last year, he did close the night out with a solid 12-points, 4-rebounds, and 3-assists. He was calm against the Memphis press and hit a couple of timely threes whenever Memphis began to sense a glimmer of hope. A good day for a good kid. Here's a Jermaine Sanders interview leading up to today's game...

In seemingly the only game that wasn't close this weekend, Cincinnati had this one all but wrapped up from the start. They jumped out to a 17-2 lead after just 6-minutes of play. The Bearcats followed up their start in the second half where they had a double-digit lead the entire second half. The defense was stellar as usual, but the offense looked something we have only seen a few times this season... efficient.

The Bearcats were solid on defense early and let up a little bit later on. I am going to chalk that up as a reaction to the comfortable lead, but hope they realize that every team they play here-on-out will have the potential to come back on them late. Memphis, on the other hand, came into today's game 0-6 in contests that they were down at halftime. Cincinnati kindly helped them extend that streak.

Outside of defense, the Bearcats out rebounded the Tigers 33-22 due in part to the 11-rebound effort from Octavius Ellis. Along with superior rebounding, Cincinnati also shot the ball pretty well today, shooting 24-48 (50%) from the field. Three point shooting could have been better (6-17), but I really liked the solid work from the free throw line (23-39, or 79%). I don't want to get ahead of ourselves, but there are numerous cliches about how defense and free throws win championships... just saying.

Individually, Octavuis Ellis led Cincinnati with 19-points and 11-boards. He is becoming a force on both sides of the ball. If he can keep his emotions under control and can stop throwing half-court floater passes, he is going to have a special senior season. Because tournament opponents will have limited knowledge about Cincinnati, teams in the tournament may try to game plan against Ellis. I am sure Cincinnati, and particularly Gary Clark, is hoping they do just that.

Faradd Cob also had another great night. Off a 22-point performance, he was good for 16 more today. Cobb is not the consistent impact player that Caupain, Ellis, or Clark is, but his streaky shooting will give Cincinnati a chance to beat teams better than them later this month.

With the win, Cincinnati locks up a 3-seed in the AAC tournament. If Cincinnati can find themselves in the AAC finals, or dare I say AAC Champions, this once bubble team may find themselves in a nice place seeding wise for THE tournament. As a 3-seed, they have earned a first round bye and will take on the winner of the 11-vs-6 seed matchup. Unfortunately, that means they will likely be playing UCONN (Current 6-seed). Cincinnati will play that game Friday at 9:00PM on ESPNU.

-Daniele "Da" Bologna