If sports were binary, then the No. 19 Cincinnati Bearcats passed their road test against the Temple Owls last night. They finished with a win (thanks to Jacob Evans) and that’s all that really matters.
However, there was more to the game than just checking yes or no on a questionnaire that asked if they won or lost. There’s the between the lines items that mean a great deal, and in those intangible areas, the Bearcats had a host of issues as they won their sixth-straight game.
Before we get into it, there is no reason to panic or be alarmed. Winning on the road in conference games is usually a tough ask. Playing at Temple’s Liacouras Center can be one of the most difficult. But that doesn’t entirely erase some of the poor play from the Bearcats last night, especially since the Owls are a middling team at 7-7.
UC is often a team built to win rock fights like last night, but although they have the defensive acumen, this team has more offensive weapons than most Mick Cronin teams, so shooting just 39.2 percent from the floor was an especially sour solution to swallow.
The Bearcats were especially bad when it came to three-point shooting. With Jarron Cumberland marred by a 40-minute slump that led to zero points, the Bearcats made just 3-of-14 shots from beyond the arc. That’s good for a 21.4 percent success rate. Cumberland and Evans combined to go 0-for-7. Yikes. While far from a lethal deep shooting squad, the Bearcats have connected on a respectable 37.6 percent of their long range attempts overall, so this was likely an anomaly -- but it was nearly a very costly one.
On the subject of scoring, the Bearcats did not look like the team with a deep roster they have been heralded as. This was no more apparent than in the second half when anyone not named Kyle Washington, Jacob Evans or Gary Clark did absolutely nothing in terms of scoring points. Washington netted 13 points in the frame and Evans and Clark each had eight. The rest of the team went scoreless on 0-of-9 shooting. The reserves were especially absent, as Nysier Brooks and Trevor Moore were the only subs to play more than 10 minutes for the Bearcats, who only got six field goal attempts from reserves. I guess that explains why they scored a total of four points off the bench.
Then there’s the whole free throw problem, which we talked about earlier this week and will apparently need to monitor closely the remainder of the season. By going 12-for-20 at the charity stripe, the Bearcats certainly drove the level of difficulty up. In fact, Clark went 2-for-4 at the line in the final minutes, nearly allowing Temple to avoid a collapse. That’s not to say Clark is to blame for the poor free throw shooting. Far from it. The senior forward has been excellent at the line this year and he went 4-for-5 the rest of the game.
Now back to that collapse I just mentioned. Temple never really totally controlled this game. UC did have 16 turnovers, but won the battle of the boards (40-35) and the Owls’ largest lead was just eight points midway through the second half. However, the Owls really had the Bearcats on the ropes. Luckily, Washington, Evans and Clark joined forces to wipe the deficit away. The Bearcats finished the game on a 12-3 run which included a hoop and harm for Clark, a huge triple from Washington and, of course, the game winner from Evans. It’s that last bit which is most important, but don’t let the details evaporate in euphoria.
Best Individual Stat Line
This honor goes to the game’s hero. Evans did not have his best shooting night by any stretch (6-of-14), but he still finished with 14 points. Then there’s the fact that he led the team with four assists and three steals while tallying six boards and a block. His last shot was the winning blow, but Evans did a lot more than just that.