To evaluate the Cincinnati Bearcats’ win over the USF Bulls on Tuesday night, you really need to divide the game into its two halves. In the first half, everything came up Bearcats. They shot 48 percent from the field and actually found consistent success from three-point range, drilling 6-of-12 attempts from such a distance. They were also excellent on defense, scoring 19 points off of turnovers while holding the Bulls to 40 percent shooting efficiency. Some old habits crept back in for the Bearcats during the second half, as they stopped hitting threes (1-for-6) while they allowed the Bulls to shoot at a 54 percent clip and tie the game twice.
While the second half defense wasn’t ideal, the Bearcats did stick to their usual game plan. They protected the rim effectively and kept the pressure up on the Bulls. Eliel Nsoseme recorded four rejections and the Bearcats had nine total blocks. For a team ranked ninth in the country in block percentage, that was par four the course.
All that shot blocking was nothing compared to what the Bearcats did in terms of creating turnovers. They forced a total of 21, which yielded 30 points, while USF only scored 12 points off of 11 turnovers. UC usually does a good job of sparking offense through its defense, ranking 32nd in the country in opponent turnovers per possession.
Blocks and steals are nice, but the through line of the entire win was the play of Jarron Cumberland. The junior swing man has had plenty of scoring outbursts in his career, especially this season, but nothing like what he did against the Bulls. He scored 19 points in the first half alone and finished with a career-high 34. He has scored in double figures in all but one game this season and has surpassed 20 points eight times.
Cumberland willed himself to such a big scoring night on Tuesday, as he consistently put the ball on the floor and drove to the rim. He took 16 free throws, and sank 14 of them, finishing with more made from the line than from the field (nine). He wasn’t the only guy to take free throws, however, as this game was played at the foul line as much as it was played on the rest of the court. The Bearcats took advantage, draining 29-of-32 from the line, while USF countered with a 22-of-26 effort. UC was only averaging 21.1 free throw attempts per game entering play, while shooting a pretty average 70.5 percent. On Tuesday, they flipped the script on that narrative.
Getting back to Cumberland, it wasn’t just scoring that he provided. He also sparked the defense with four of the team’s 12 steals while dropping three dimes. Cumberland’s all-around game has been taken to a new level this year, and on Tuesday, he was at the height of his powers.
Cumberland did get plenty of help from his fellow starters, who all scored in double figures, but the Bearcats got virtually nothing from the bench, especially on offense. Cane Broome scored only three points on 1-of-4 shooting while Nsoseme added a single bucket of his own. That was the extent of UC’s bench scoring. Luckily, Nsoseme made up for that with his defensive efforts and Broome handed out five assists. Still, for a team that is supposed to have some depth, the Bearcats didn’t have much to speak of on Tuesday.
The Bearcats have won three-straight games and are jostling for positioning at the top of the American Athletic Conference. To stay there, they could stand to close games better and get more out of their bench. However, if there’s one thing we learned on Tuesday, it’s that as long as Cumberland is around, the Bearcats will always be a position to win.
Best Individual Stat Line - Jarron Cumberland
Unless somebody else scored 34 points, Cumberland easily takes the distinction for this game.