Considering the Cincinnati Bearcats led by as many as 19 points against the UConn Huskies on Saturday, the final numbers didn’t exactly paint such an impression. A big reason for that is the Huskies furious attempt to come back.
After Jacob Evans sank a pair of free throws to put the score at 55-36 with a little less than eight minutes to play, the Huskies woke up. They would go on a 21-8 run and pull within six points before the final buzzer sounded. However, they ran out of time as there were only six seconds left when Jalen Adams drilled a three-pointer to make it 63-57. Evans followed with two foul shots and that was the end of things.
Giving up a run like that isn’t the greatest, but a through-the-motions finish still didn’t sabotage the work the Bearcats put in to expand their lead to 19 points. UC never trailed in the contest, and even with the Huskies trying to claw their way back, panic did not set in. There’s something to be said for that, since the Bearcats were playing on the road and, even if UConn isn’t the UConn of old, a conference game away from home is usually going to have an advanced degree of difficulty.
There were still some distressing trends, of course. The Bearcats only shot 38 percent from the floor, and its not like the final frame dragged that number down by itself. UC hit 38.5 percent in the first 20 minutes and 37.5 in the second, finishing with 19 made field goals. A reliance on three-point shooting was part of the problem but also part of the solution. The Bearcats outscored the Huskies 27-15 from beyond the arc, but they also took eight more shots (25) than their hosts (17).
On top of the production from long range, the Bearcats took advantage of their free throw chances, knocking down 18-of-24. For a team that has struggled at times in that area, it was important that they did not. Evans can be credited with a lot of the success, as he made 9-of-10 attempts and finished with a team-high 19 points. Evans’ offensive rating of 139 was the highest of any Bearcat who played at least 10 minutes and was what kept UC on the up and up.
The need to shoot threes and sink foul shots was partially born from a lack of easy looks. Even though Kyle Washington had a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds, the Bearcats only scored 14 points in the paint. With such mediocre (at best) efforts in overall scoring, UC finished with an even offensive rating of 100.0. Jarron Cumberland (80) and Justin Jenifer (58) were two starters who really depleted that reading, while Gary Clark was limited to five points and six rebounds while taking a total of three shots.
On the other side of the court, Jalen Adams once again showed that he comes out to play when UC is in the building. He netted 20 points, albeit on an inefficient 7-of-20 shooting. Christian Vital’s 18 points and nine rebounds were also important, but the Bearcats did a good job limiting the rest of the roster, holding the Huskies to an offensive rating of 87.7 and an effective field goal percentage of .409 overall.
So what we’ve got here, when you look at the box score, is a team that didn’t get the best performances of the year from its whole roster, but still played well enough that a 21-8 run did little more than put a dent in their advantage. Obviously, the Bearcats aren’t going to win every game when they shoot below 40 percent and fail to get easier buckets, but for now they are a perfect 10-0 in American Athletic Conference play and opponents are running out of time to knock them off the top of the league standings.
Best Individual Stat Line
Washington really stepped up in a rare game where Clark didn’t perform to the best of his abilities. With 13 points and 11 rebounds, Washington produced his first double-double since Nov. 22 and second of season overall.