It was a busy holiday weekend for the Cincinnati Bearcats. UC faced off with two foes and even though the Samford Bulldogs and Lipscomb Bisons are far from the elite-level competition UC will take on going forward, the two wins gave more insight into what this team is made of.
With a 5-1 record in hand, UC is clearly poised for another strong season but some of that insight gathered while turkey was being stuffed down gullets across America will dictate just how strong.
Even in UC’s 91-68 win over Lipscomb on Saturday, the Bearcats suffered a loss. After just six minutes of game play, Gary Clark went down with a sprained ankle. Last season’s American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year has been off to an uneven start, but we know what kind of player he can be and losing him for any stretch, let alone against No. 19 Iowa State (UC’s next foe), will be tough to overcome.
#UC forward Gary Clark is day-to-day with sprained ankle, coach Mick Cronin said today. UC next visits #19 Iowa State on Thursday— Tom Groeschen (@TomGroeschen) November 29, 2016
Day-to-day makes it seem like this isn’t too serious, but its difficult to tell for sure. So we’ll remain in wait-and-see mode.
Way of Washington
Getting Kyle Washington in the transfer market was a major coup for Mick Cronin. Few would have believed it would be as big an addition as it has been through six games. Washington (16.8 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.2 BPG) has been posting double-doubles at a crazy rate and is shaping into a two-way threat the likes of which has not been seen in some time. Washington leads the Bearcats in PER (31.3) and is second in the AAC in usage percentage (29.1). This shows that he is getting the ball often and doing wonderful things with it. Also, with an offensive rating of 123.9 and a defensive rating of 88.2, its clear that he has been nothing short of an asset no matter what is going on on the court.
Washington will get a stern test of his abilities this week when UC faces off with Iowa State, which features some frontcourt players that may not be as easily pushed around as those of Lipscomb and Samford. Even so, based on what we’ve seen out of him so far, I wouldn’t bet against him.
There are no benefits of Clark’s injury but if there is one player who will get some positive impact from Clark’s possible absence its Tre Scott. The redshirt freshman played a season-high 29 minutes against Lipscomb after Clark went down. In that time he absolutely dominated, littering the stat sheet with crooked digits. He scored nine points on 3-of-6 shooting as well as a 3-of-5 effort at the free-throw line. He added nine rebounds and five blocks to that and, in an even more eye-opening display, handed out five assists, showing court vision few knew he possessed. Obviously Scott won’t be throwing up almost triple-doubles night in and night out, but he has the skills to not only fill in for Clark but to earn a more prominent spot in the rotation even when the team is fully healthy.
It hasn’t happened in every game this season, specifically against Rhode Island, but UC has shown a slight tendency to start slow and turn it on after halftime. That was particularly true in week three. The Bearcats took home a 15-point victory over Samford, but that made some forget that the Bulldogs led 35-30 at halftime. The Bearcats only made 38.2 percent of their shots from the floor in those first 20 minutes, while Samford got seven triples to fall and shot nearly 45 percent. Once the teams got going in the second half, UC was in total control, nailing 48.3 percent from the floor while limiting Samford to six field goals, just one of which was from long distance.
Against Lipscomb, UC’s less than amazing start (43.8 percent from the floor, 3-of-10 from 3-point range) was not as pronounced because the Bisons also struggled and the Bearcats led 40-28 at the break. After intermission, however, UC was on fire, knocking down 63 percent from the field to roll to a 23-point triumph.
Starting slow is something that can be overcome against lesser competition, as UC showed against Samford. However, if UC is going to play deep into March, it needs to be able to start and finish strong.
In the AP poll and USA Today Coaches poll, Cincinnati is still in the “others receiving votes” section. The Bearcats are a bit higher in the AP Top 25, while sitting behind Florida, Notre Dame, Michigan and Michigan State on the queue to get into the Coaches Top 25.
In addition, UC moved down in ESPN’s Joe Lunardi’s bracketology. The Bearcats are now projected as a No. 7 seed and expected to face 10th-seeded USC.
On the more analytic side, Cincinnati is ranked No. 26 by KenPom, fitting in at No. 43 in adjusted offensive efficiency (109.7) and 13th in adjusted defensive efficiency (91.7).
Highlight of the Week
Former Bearcat Sean Kilpatrick is lighting up the world in the NBA during his first full NBA season. He was incredible in the Brooklyn Nets’ 127-122 double-overtime win over the Los Angeles Clippers. His biggest shot came late in the second extra session when he wrapped the contest up with a drive to the rim.
As previously mentioned, UC’s next contest is a big one. The Bearcats will face off with the No. 19 Iowa State Cyclones in a rematch from a year ago. In that contest, ISU escaped Fifth Third Arena with an 81-79 victory. Following that clash, UC will return to host Bowling Green this Sunday.