BB&T Arena sure served as a fine temporary home for the Cincinnati Bearcats. In Northern Kentucky’s building, the Bearcats went 15-1 this season, including yesterday’s 82-74 win over the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. That victory was far from a run-of-the-mill affair, as it marked the final home contest for seniors Gary Clark, Kyle Washington and Jackson Bart as members of the Bearcats. Saying goodbye was clearly the most prominent theme in the game, but there were plenty of other things to process.
Out of the gate, it seemed like both teams had lowered the difficulty down to rookie. For a bit, just about every shot was dropping and most of them were from three-point range. In the first half alone, both teams combined for 18 threes, while hitting on more than 50 percent of their shots overall. UC forgot to bring its brand-name defense and had to settle for the generic version, as Tulsa was especially hot, drilling 59.3 percent from the floor.
The offensive barrage continued into the second half, although the script flipped. The Bearcats made an even 60 percent of their field goal tries in the period, spearheaded by the man of the hour: Gary Clark. While foul trouble hampered him in the first, Clark played all 20 minutes in the second and stuffed those minutes with 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Tulsa responded with five three-pointers, but it finally got squeezed by the UC defense, shooting just 34.4 percent overall while not taking even one foul shot.
When all was said and done, the Bearcats had posted an offensive rating of 130.2 and an effective field goal percentage of 68.8. Those aren’t video game numbers. Those are the types of numbers you come up with in your head while taking shots at the playground.
While Clark brought the Bearcats home, it was Jarron Cumberland who got them in a position to get there. The sophomore guard was en fuego in the first 20 minutes, as he tallied 15 points, including four triples, and five assists, while shooting 5-of-7 from the floor overall. He only scored two points after the break as Clark, Cane Broome and Jacob Evans took over, but everybody was getting the full Teddy Graham in the first.
But don’t sleep on the production from Evans, who finished with an offensive rating of 178 compared to Cumberland’s 152 by scoring 15 points, dropping seven dimes and securing six rebounds. Broome was also strong (15 points, four assists), but someone who deserves a shout out that likely won’t most other places is Justin Jenifer, who had six points on 2-of-2 shooting and five assists in 16 minutes.
During that opening period, as both teams scorched the net, there was plenty of parity, as the lead changed hands nine times. That all stopped in the second when there was just one lead change, as UC turned a 47-44 halftime deficit into a 57-54 lead and never looked back. That’s what holding an opponent to 34.4 percent shooting will do for you.
But that defensive might wasn’t there all game, which led to a few other oddities, as UC was outscored 17-11 in points off turnovers and 17-13 in second chance points. That’s just uncharacteristic of this team, which is usually the one forcing the mistakes. As for the boards, the Bearcats had a slight edge (30-26), with Tre Scott pushing them forward via seven rebounds, although they gave up too much on the offensive glass (15).
Now that the emotion of senior day is behind them, the Bearcats will need to clean up some of the sloppy play from yesterday as they embark on a critical two-game road trip to finish the campaign. After all, this team doesn’t want to just win Clark’s last home game, but every game from here to April.
Best Individual Stat Line
Clark was excellent as usual, but Cumberland actually stole the show. Not only did he tie with Clark for a team-high in scoring, he also added eight assists, five rebounds and two steals. Drilling down deeper, you’ll find that Cumberland had a true shooting percentage o 81.4 and an effective field goal percentage of 80.0, not to mention the Bearcats’ second-lowest defensive rating (117) on a day where defense was hard to find.