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Box Score Deep Dive: A Defensive Masterpiece

Cincinnati played defense as well as it possibly could as it beat Temple into submission.

NCAA Basketball: Temple at Cincinnati David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

When I visited the Louvre in Paris (humble brag alert), I was most struck by the Winged Victory of Samothrace. The statue of a robed figure with wings is displayed, alone, at the the top of a staircase. As you climb the steps, you have no choice but to embrace its majesty. You can have your Mona Lisa, for my money, that’s the piece to see. If I was going to distill that work of art into a basketball game, it would encapsulate the defensive effort from the No. 9 Cincinnati Bearcats against the Temple Owls last night.

In a lopsided victory, the Bearcats (18-2, 7-0 American Athletic Conference) rolled 75-42 to extend their overall winning streak to 11 games and their home winning streak to 37 games. They got there by playing vintage Mick Cronin basketball, keeping the pressure up and giving Temple no rest. By allowing only 16 field goals on 28.6 percent shooting, UC recorded its sixth game in league play with fewer than 20 field goals allowed. In total, the Bearcats have let up 128 field goals against the conference and a 34.6 percent success rate on shot attempts. Both of those marks lead the league. They were especially stingy against the three-point shot, with Temple making a ghastly 13 percent (3-of-23) from distance.

The Bearcats were not content with just pressuring shooters, they also hounded ball-handlers to the tune of 20 turnovers. They have forced at least 10 turnovers in every game this season and have amassed 20 or more five times. When mistakes came, they made sure to capitalize, doubling up the Owls on points off turnovers (24-12). You can thank Jacob Evans for a bunch of that work as he finished with a career-high five steals. UC had 12 as a team.

When the dust settled on this one, the Bearcats had allowed an offensive rating of just 58.3 and an effective field goal percentage of .313. Not a single Temple player scored in double figures, while very single Bearcat had a defensive rating below 100, led by a mark of 50(!) from Evans. Gary Clark posted a 52 rating and Kyle Washington was at 58. Off the bench, Tre Scott (54) and Keith Williams (42) were the most brilliant.

But let’s get back to Clark. This was another huge game for the senior, who had 17 points and 10 rebounds as well as three assists, two steals and a block. He made 6-of-7 shots from the floor and registered an offensive rating of 165, leading all starters. He also reached the 1,000 career rebound mark in the game and will become the all-time leader in starts for UC with three more.

Clark’s double-double sparked a 46-36 edge on the glass for the Bearcats, who also got nine boards from Washington. However, Scott (24.6) and Eliel Nsoseme (24.2) ranked first and second, respectively, in total rebound percentage in the game, thanks to limited minutes packed with production. Scott ripped down six boards in 13 minutes and Nsoseme had five in 11.

As for their own offensive work, the Bearcats were on the pedestrian side. With an offensive rating of 104.2 and an effective field goal percentage of 49.2, they were effective enough, but far from an offensive juggernaut. Luckily, they didn’t need to be as they crafted a work of art defensively.

Best Individual Stat Line

With 10 points, six rebounds, five assists and five steals, Evans would be a worthy winner, but Clark was too efficient to lose out. He made 4-of-5 shots from inside the arc and both of his attempts from beyond it. That led to a perfect effective field goal percentage (1.00) and a true shooting percentage of .882. Additionally, he posted his 26th career double-double and added three assists, two steals and a block for good measure. He also didn’t commit a single foul.