Last year, the Cincinnati Bearcats were notorious for failing to finish off critical victories. Losses against Iowa State, Butler, UConn and Saint Joseph’s, and a few others, featured an inability by UC to close the deal in a winnable game against a quality opponent.
It appears whatever caused those difficulties a year ago is still festering this season. Despite leading by as many as 12 points, the No. 24 Bearcats (2-1) were defeated by the No. 21 Rhode Island Rams (3-0) in the second semifinal of the Naismith Hall of Fame Tip-Off at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Even in the loss, Jacob Evans and Kyle Washington continued their hot starts to the campaign. Evans knocked down 8-of-12 shots from the floor and finished with a game-high 25 points. He has scored at least 20 points in each game this season. Washington contributed 23 points on 8-of-15 from the field and 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the season. Troy Caupain also got into double figures (12 points) and had five assists but he was inconsistent in his shooting (4-of-14).
Another concerning development was Gary Clark’s disappearing act. Foul trouble kept him subdued, but even so, he finished with only four points (1-of-5 from the field) and six rebounds. Clark, never one to be a volume scorer, has managed a combined six points on 2-of-11 shooting.
Clearly, Clark and the UC frontcourt were not the dominant force it had been in the first two games of the season. Washington put in work on the boards, but URI earned a 40-29 edge on the glass. In addition, the Rams showed more offensive consistency and fluidity, with four double-figure scorers and 17 assists, while UC assisted on only eight of its 23 made field goals.
The Bearcats won’t have much time to absorb this disappointing and first setback of the year as they will be back in action tomorrow in the consolation round of the Tip-Off against Penn State.