So this is what losing feels like. I’ll be honest. I don’t like it. A pretty ugly effort from No. 5 Cincinnati at H&PE Arena on Thursday night ended the Bearcats 16-game winning streak in a 67-62 decision against the Houston Cougars. This loss will undoubtedly plunge the Bearcats back down the national rankings, and fuel the fire of the non-believers, but let’s not overreact to just the third loss in 26 games. Unfortunately, we do have to react to it in some way, so let’s get into it.
Things really started off well. The Bearcats led by as many as 13 points very early on, but then the offense got lost. That may be an understatement. I’m pretty sure Jack, Kate, Sawyer and the rest of the gang on Oceanic Flight 815 had a better idea of where they were than the Bearcats did on offense in the second half. (Topical reference hot off the presses!). The biggest issue was the fact that after Kyle Washington made a layup with 12:14 remaining, the Bearcats went nearly 12 minutes without a field goal. For the entire 20 minutes, they had only six field goals, shooting 31.6 percent from the floor.
During the entirety of the game, the Bearcats shot just 38.6 percent with an effective field goal percentage of 43.2. The shooting was especially poor from long range. After drilling their first three shots from beyond the arc, the Bearcats missed their next 11 before finally ending the drought with a useless triple from Jacob Evans at the end of regulation. Although their final offensive rating indicated that they were exactly average (100.0), the disastrous second half told another story.
There were very few easy looks at the basket and that’s a credit to Houston, a team that is no doubt going dancing in March. The Cougars, who rank 21st in the country in adjusted defense, clearly had no intention of letting Evans get going, as the junior swingman was pressured all game. While he did end up with a team-high 16 points, he only went 3-for-9 from the floor, with two of those field goals coming in the final 30 seconds. What buoyed Evans’ efforts, and those of the Bearcats in general, was the free-throw line. Evans went 9-for-12 at the stripe while the Bearcats went 24-for-32 as a whole, including a 22-for-29 effort in the final 20 minutes.
While UC was busy searching for a field goal, Houston was turning up the heat. Powered by big games from Devin Davis (16 points, 10 rebounds), Corey Davis Jr. (16 points) and Armoni Brooks (12 points), the Cougars shot 53.9 percent from the floor in the second half, including a 5-of-11 showing from distance. Houston also did a better job attacking the glass all night, winning the rebounding margin 36-27. That helped with a 17-10 edge in second chance points as well.
Lastly, with Brooks leading the second unit, Houston got a lot more from its reserves than Cincinnati. While Trevor Moore was the only backup to play double digit minutes, meaning there was not a ton of opportunity, the group still combined for just two points. Surprisingly, Cane Broome only played six minutes and did not attempt a shot. This was puzzling and frustrating as the Bearcats languished on offense. I’m still trying to figure out the reasoning for that decision.
So where does that leave us? The Cougars are obviously a good team and losing to them at home in a tight affair isn’t anything to panic about. Cincinnati is still in the driver’s seat in the American Athletic Conference and well on its way to the NCAA Tournament. Its just time to bounce back and get ready for another big game against Wichita State. Something tells me that Mick Cronin will quickly remind his team how to handle a loss and move forward, even if the Bearcats haven’t had to do that in a while.
Best Individual Stat Line
Nobody had a good one, but I guess Jarron Cumberland deserves a little credit, since his offensive game was the closest thing to consistent. He scored 14 points and added two rebounds and an assist while being the only Bearcat to make more than one three-pointer. He only went 3-for-9 from the field overall but he did record an offensive rating of 126.