You can’t blame Cincinnati (19-2, 8-0 American) fans for being nervous coming into this game. South Florida (6-14, 0-9 American) has been one of the worst teams in college basketball since the end of December, but this one had all the hallmarks of a ‘letdown game’ all over it. After an emotional victory against their hated rival, Xavier, earlier in the week, many expected the Bearcats performance to suffer against a weak opponent like South Florida. Boy, were they wrong.
After a somewhat sluggish start and the game tied 12-12, Cincinnati used a 14-0 run to push the margin to 26-12 and never looked back. The Bearcats outscored USF 37-13 over the last 12 minutes of the first half to take a 49-25 advantage into the break. Kyle Washington played a great first half both offensively and defensively. He ended the game with 13 points, three rebounds, and a block in limited minutes. The block was especially impressive.
Justin Jenifer also played well in the first half, providing a huge lift to the Bearcats offense after they initially struggled. Jenifer ended the game with his best overall stat line at Cincinnati with 12 points, five rebounds, and nine assists. The sophomore showed flashes - perhaps for the first time - that he’ll capable of replacing senior, Troy Caupain next season.
The second half was all Jarron Cumberland. The freshman had eight points in the first half, and then erupted for 18 in the second. He ended the game with a career-high 26 points, three rebound, three assists, and four steals. Cumberland scored 13 points in a row for the Bearcats to push their lead to 70-33 with 11:13 still to play in the game.
Cumberland is coming into his own at exactly the right point in the season for Cincinnati. He brings an extra scoring dimension to this team that has the potential to take them a long way in March. The attention he commands helps open up the interior for Gary Clark and Kyle Washington, and gives the Bearcats a deadly inside-outside threat.
The Bearcats are off until Wednesday now, when they travel to Tulsa to face the Golden Hurricane. On paper, Tulsa appears to be a pushover, but they’ve somehow pulled off wins against Memphis and Central Florida. Cincinnati will need to be careful not to overlook them in anticipation of their game against Connecticut later in the week.