Well, that sucked.
Cincinnati lost to UCF for the first time in school history in Sunday’s 53-49 loss in Orlando. The Bearcats (25-4, 14-2 American) rallied from an 11 point deficit, and had a chance to tie the game when freshman Tre Scott missed a wide open dunk with five seconds remaining to seal the victory for the Knights (19-10, 10-7 American).
The loss for Cincinnati essentially guarantees SMU the regular season AAC championship, and should give the Bearcats the number two seed for the upcoming AAC tournament. It was the first loss to an unranked opponent all season for the Bearcats after losing to Rhode Island, Butler, and SMU previously.
This was one of those games where absolutely nothing went right for Cincinnati. They shot 16-54 (29.6%) from the field including 7-24 (29.2%) from behind the three point line. By the time Scott missed his wide open dunk, it wasn’t even that shocking, and when Tacko Fall — a 49% free throw shooter — subsequently hit both of his free throws with just two seconds remaining, the loss felt pre-destined.
After committing a total of just four turnovers in the past eight games, Troy Caupain turned the ball over four times today. He shot 1-9 from the field, with four assists and six rebounds. It’s the second time this season he’s struggled against the Knight. He’s shot 3-21 (14.3%) against them this year, including 2-13 (15.4%) from behind the arc. The Bearcats saw a noticeable increase in production whenever Justin Jenifer was on the floor. Jenifer played just nine minutes, and didn’t score any points, but ball movement and tempo was much better with him in the lineup.
Perhaps the biggest issue for the Bearcats was the loss of Gary Clark for a large stretch of the game after picking two fouls in the first three minutes. Clark played just 17 minutes, scoring three points on 1-4 shooting. Tacko Fall’s presence helped hold both Gary Clark and Kyle Washington to relatively quiet games. Washington shot just 3-15 from the field, missing several contested shots.
If there’s a silver lining to the game, it’s that the Bearcats played about as poorly as they have all season, and were still just a Tre Scott dunk away from tying the game with five seconds remaining. In the grand scheme of things the loss probably doesn’t hurt the Bearcats too much. Despite being ranked high enough to be considered a four seed for the NCAA tournament, most experts routinely slot Cincinnati as a five or six seed. This loss simply reinforces that previously held belief.
Next up for the Bearcats is a visit from a very talented Houston team. Cincinnati beat the Cougars 67-58 back in early January, but Houston has been on a roll lately, winning six of their previous seven games. After the Houston game, Cincinnati will travel to Connecticut for their season finale matchup against the Huskies.