Maybe Zack Tobler should start every game.
The senior guard from Fort Thomas, Kentucky got his first career start on Senior Night, and scored the first basket of the game to give the Bearcats the early 2-0 advantage.
Cincinnati (26-4, 15-2 American) would go on to dominate Houston (20-9, 11-6 American) en route to the 65-47 victory. The Bearcats led by as much as 26 points, and the outcome was never in doubt. While the result may not have been shocking — Cincinnati already beat Houston once this year — the way the Bearcats just annihilated the Cougars was a surprise to many. The consensus after the game seems to be that the only way Houston can make the NCAA tournament now is if they win next week’s AAC tournament.
The Bearcats won this game by playing suffocating defense and gaining a rebounding advantage of 40-24. They recorded seven steals, and forced a total of 13 turnovers. Houston hit just 18 of 48 shots from the field (37.5%), and only five of 19 three pointers (26.3%). The Cougars scored just eight points over approximately 20 minutes of game time during one long, miserable offensive stretch.
Cincinnati played an opportunistic style of offense by scoring repeatedly off turnovers and fast breaks. When they were forced into a half court offense, they continually fed the ball to Gary Clark who led the team with 14 points and seven rebounds. Houston simply didn’t have an answer for Clark and Kyle Washington in the paint tonight.
The game served as the final home game for Tobler, Troy Caupain, and Kevin Johnson. Caupain and Johnson played the sort of terrific all-around games we’ve all come to take for granted. Caupain scored 11 points, and added four rebounds, five assists, and two steals. Johnson scored seven points with four rebounds, four assists, and two steals. The duo will undoubtedly have a big say about how far the Bearcats can go in both the AAC and NCAA tournaments.
On a night where Cincinnati fans began saying goodbye to three familiar faces, they also had plenty of opportunities to celebrate the future. Jarron Cumberland scored 10 points, and looked like one of the most skilled players on the court at times. The freshman has made major strides throughout the season, and is now a key part of the Cincinnati rotation.
Luke Fickell may want to take note of this play and see about using him as a running back for the football team.
Next up for Cincinnati is their regular season finale at Connecticut. The Huskies have been playing much better of late, and will likely need a win against the Bearcats to avoid playing on day one of the AAC tournament. As always, expect a tough matchup whenever these two teams face off.