We’ve let sleeping dogs (or Bearcats) lie for long enough. As painful as it may be to face the fact that Cincinnati was swatted away by Xavier at the Cintas Center on Saturday, we can’t ignore it altogether. So stop avoiding sports sites, take your fingers out of your ears and get ready for some inconvenient truths. (Thanks for the assist, Mr. Gore).
The Bearcats shot horribly
Any chance the Bearcats had at pulling off an impressive road win was thrown out the window and catapulted into the stratosphere when they went down 21-5 early on. It’s one thing to have a slow start. It’s an entirely different thing when playing on the road against a team that has gone 32-6 at home over the last three years.
UC just couldn’t find the bottom of the net throughout the first half, with Gary Clark’s three-pointer with 15:14 left in the period the first field goal the team managed. The Bearcats would then go nearly three more minutes before Cane Broome made a layup for their second. In all, they shot an even 40 percent from the field in those first 20 minutes, including a miserable 2-of-9 effort from long range. That just wasn’t going to mix well with Xavier’s hot shooting and 7-of-11 marksmanship from beyond the arc.
Kyle Washington was nowhere to be found
Besides some pretty heinous free-throw shooting, Washington was an integral part of UC’s win over Xavier last season. With 12 points, eight rebounds and four blocks, he was a presence down low. If you erased that presence, well then you get what just happened over the weekend. Washington played only 14 minutes and missed all four of his field goal attempts while securing all of two rebounds.
We all know Washington can be dominant against lesser opponents. He can also reach such level of play in competitive contests, but it is concerning that he shrinks from the spotlight in some big spots. For example, he only had four points in UC’s NCAA Tournament loss to UCLA last spring.
Jacob Evans and Jarron Cumberland didn’t show up until the second half
For the first 20 minutes, Evans and Cumberland were in the same ineffective boat as Washington. Evans, who did not come out once in the first quarter, only took four shots and managed five points. Cumberland was limited to nine minutes, but got off just a single shot, which he missed. The duo are second and third, respectively, on the team in scoring, so if they aren’t getting shots up or points on the board, then UC is in trouble with a capital T.
Luckily, they both flipped a switch after the break, combining for 32 points on 12-of-22 shooting, but it was too little, too late.
Xavier controlled the boards and the paint
In the days leading up to this game, Bill Koch from GoBearcats.com wrote up a piece about how UC used rebounding to control the game and beat Xavier last season. He was right on. In that 86-78 victory, the Bearcats owned a 42-33 edge on the glass, with Clark and Washington accounting for 19 of those rebounds. The Bearcats also pounded the rock down low and worked for a 34-12 domination in points in the paint.
Despite having the same frontcourt performers, and a few newcomers, they could not replicate the performance. While both teams scored 34 points in the paint, Xavier won the rebounding battle by a wide margin (44-27), while producing 19 second chance points. The Bearcats had five in response.
After the Xavier wing scored 40 points against UC last season, it was clear he takes this rivalry very seriously. Now a senior, Bluiett let everyone know quite plainly that he is one of, if not the best players in the country let alone the Big East. Bluiett diced the UC defense up to the tune of 28 points on 7-of-11 shooting. He did a lot of his work from three-point range (5-of-10) and took advantage at the stripe as well (9-of-11).
The Mick Cronin/J.P. Macura Drama
This is a rivalry. A really heated one. So of course level heads will not always prevail. Regardless, Mick Cronin was in the wrong here. Even if J.P. Macura was jawing (and cursing) at Cronin, there’s no reason for a coach to go after another team’s player, or any player for that matter. This was an ugly loss on the basketball court and became an even worse one off of it.