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Box Score Deep Dive: ‘Gross’ Defense Lets Bearcats Down

Mick Cronin described his team’s effort in its second-straight loss as “gross” on Sunday. Its difficult to disagree with him.

Wichita State v Cincinnati Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Mick Cronin seemed defeated in his post-game presser (below) following Cincinnati’s 76-72 loss to Wichita State on Sunday. He called out a number of phases of the game that torpedoed the Bearcats’ chance at a statement victory, particularly the defensive breakdown and the lack of offensive rebounding from his big guys. Cronin summed up his feelings pretty succinctly, calling the effort “gross.”

It’s tough to blame the head coach of the Bearcats. His team has suddenly lost back-to-back games, letting a 16-game overall winning streak and 39-game winning streak at home disappear along withheir identity has disappeared.

UC is a team that makes its success on the defensive end, but as Cronin pointed out, that was not the case on Sunday. Despite having the second-best defense in the country by KenPom’s ratings, the Bearcats were overpowered by Wichita State’s No. 8 offense. They allowed the Shockers to shoot 60.9 percent from the floor in the first half and 52.9 percent in the game overall. Too many open looks and easy buckets piled up and kept the Shockers at arm’s length for most of the game. Even more disappointing was the lack of focus they had against Landry Shamet, easily the best player on WSU’s roster, who finished with a game-high 19 points while helping his squad go 8-for-18 from three-point range.

For a team that has allowed conference opponents to shoot roughly 37 percent overall this season, the Bearcats did not have the same pressure-packed success, as the Shockers had an overall offensive rating of 111.8 and an effective field goal percentage of 60.8.

Surprisingly, the Bearcats actually won the rebounding battle (27-26) and crashed the offensive glass better than the Shockers, with an offensive rebounding percentage of 31.8 compared to WSU’s 30.4. However, they were outscored 12-8 in second chance points and, as Cronin noted in his presser, Gary Clark’s one offensive rebound was the only one brought in by one of the frontcourt producers.

Speaking of Clark, he and Jacob Evans are the best players on this team and neither has played like it in the last two games. Even though Evans scored 16 points both times, they have been a pretty quiet 16 points, if that’s even possible. That’s because the normally efficient Evans has shot just .368/.250/.727 in those games while failing to get off to a strong start. Evans had only seven points in the first half against Wichita State and was held scoreless in the same time against Houston.

As for Clark, his final stat line yesterday (11 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists) looks OK, but it was another quiet performance from a player who is supposed to be one of the best in the country. Both Evans and Clark need to play at a higher level in these big games for UC to have any chance at proving the ever increasing contingent of doubters wrong.

Surprisingly, another upperclassmen who didn’t make as much of an impact as expected was Kyle Washington. However, unlike Clark and Evans, it was because he didn’t get as much playing time. With just 17 minutes, Washington was unable to continue his recent hot streak even though he scored the first four points of the game for UC.

OK. I’ve had enough of this gloomy business. On a positive note, both Jarron Cumberland and Cane Broome balled out. Cumberland netted 18 points on 7-of-17 shooting (3-of-10 from three) and Broome had 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting off the bench. There were also 42 combined points scored off turnovers, with UC scoring 20, so keep that in mind as well.

Its tough not to be frustrated right now if you are in the UC camp. However, the Bearcats still have plenty of time to right the ship. In addition, pieces of the winning recipe have been present in their last two losses, especially with how well Broome played on Sunday. Even without a strong performance from top-to-bottom, the Bearcats have still managed to be in both of these games to the very end. If they can figure out how to get everyone to play a defensively sound and offensively effective game for 40 minutes, the Bearcats can still beat anybody. Now its on Cronin and his players to find that solution before March rolls around.

Best Individual Stat Line

Broome gets this honor easily. Even though Cumberland scored more points, Broome was much more efficient. with an offensive rating of 127 and effective field goal percentage of .800. However, its tough to be too hyped about it in a loss. Still, Broome deserves a lot of credit for keeping Bearcats within striking distance.