It took a few games but Jarron Cumberland finally looked like the guy who made a mockery of defenses in last year’s NCAA Tournament. During a rather easy 78-52 win over the Western Michigan Broncos at Fifth Third Arena on Monday night, the Cincinnati Bearcats were paced by a standout performance from their junior leader, who poured in 27 points.
Cumberland wasn’t exactly awful in the first three games of the season, averaging a team-high 15.3 points per game, but he had yet to have anything similar to when he averaged 22 points per game in two NCAA Tournament matchups last March. Whatever rust he may have been carrying was finally shaken against the Broncos. Cumberland knocked down 11-of-19 shots from the floor, including 4-of-7 from beyond the arc, scoring in all manner of ways.
But it wasn’t just scoring that Cumberland brought to the table. He showed off improved playmaking ability, handing out six assists while collecting two steals, largely outweighing two turnovers.
The Bearcats (3-1) didn’t just rely on Cumberland, of course. Nysier Brooks posted his second-straight double-double, this time with 15 points and 10 rebounds as well as a pair of blocks. Cane Broome was used off the bench following his own return to form on Friday. He carried the second unit with 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting to go with five rebounds and three assists. Keith Williams continued to be a perfect and versatile fit in the starting lineup, netting eight points on 4-of-6 shooting while adding five rebounds and four steals.
With Cumberland, Broome and Justin Jenifer (five assists) moving the ball fluidly, the Bearcats assisted on 19 of their 30 field goals while having a decent night from beyond the arc (5-for-13 or 38.5 percent). Brooks also led the way on a 42-27 rebounding advantage and was also the primary beneficiary of weak interior defense from the Broncos, who were outscored 36-12 in the paint.
While their offense was efficient, the Bearcats’ defense was its usually dominant self, holding Western Michigan to 33.3 percent shooting while forcing 19 turnovers.
Cumberland and the Bearcats, who have won three-straight, will perform their encore of Monday’s masterpiece this Friday when they play George Mason as part of the Emerald Coast Classic.