What a difference two weeks and playing at home makes. After barely fending off the Tulsa Golden Hurricane on the road earlier this month, the Cincinnati Bearcats absolutely demolished the same team on Thursday night in front of the Fifth Third Arena faithful. An important victory that kept the Bearcats tied for first place in the American Athletic Conference, it was a stark reversal of what transpired when these two teams met in Tulsa just two weeks ago.
The biggest role change was from beyond the arc. Tulsa punished the Bearcats from deep in the first meeting and the Bearcats returned the favor in the second. Powered by huge shooting binges from Jarron Cumberland and Justin Jenifer, the Bearcats drained 14 triples on 29 attempts, matching the 14 Tulsa posted a few weeks ago. Meanwhile, the Golden Hurricane only made eight treys on 23 tries.
Jenifer knocked down six threes, which accounted for all 18 of his points and was easily a career-high. Jenifer’s improvement as a long-range threat has been a welcome addition to his skill as a distributor. He has now made multiple threes in four-straight games and is hitting a blistering 46.7 percent from distance this season.
Cumberland nearly matched Jenifer’s three-point output (5-for-10) while once again pacing the Bearcats, this time with 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting. That marked the third time in the last four games that he has scored at least 20 points.
Both Cumberland and Jenifer saved their best exploits for the second half. Cumberland made four of his five triples in the period and Jenifer made four of his six. In those final 20 minutes, the Bearcts scored 30 points from the three-point line alone, helping to balloon a 39-28 halftime lead into a 24-point victory.
It wasn’t just three-pointers that Jenifer and Cumberland provided, as the two combined for nine assists. Both players have been critical playmakers this season, but Keith Williams’ contributions in that area were a surprising and encouraging sight. While he usually looks for his own shot, Williams handed out a career-best five assists despite just an 11.1 percent usage rate. As a team, the Bearcats assisted on 20 of their 32 made field goals. The fluid ball movement and efficient shooting led to a team-wide offensive rating of 129.4.
All those threes became even more back-breaking because the Bearcats also decimated Tulsa on the interior. They outrebounded their guests 23-8 in the second half and won the battle for the whole game by a 44-26 margin. Astute readers will note that the Bearcats had nearly as many boards in the second half as Tulsa had in the entire game.
Many of those UC rebounds were on the offensive side of the floor. For a team already burning the nets down, constantly getting additional opportunities was an added bonus. The Bearcats outscored Tulsa 25-5 in second chance points while posting a 38.6 percent offensive rebounding rate. Trevon Scott was the top rebounder, as he recorded his fourth double-double of the season (13 points, 11 rebounds). Nysier Brooks secured seven boards of his own and led all starters in offensive rebound rate (12.3 percent).
The dominant win was only marginally tarnished by bad free-throw shooting, with the Bearcats making only 10-of-20 foul shots. Cane Broome made all three of his and helped carry the offense in the first half when he scored all 10 of his points. Unfortunately, the rest of the roster found it hard to get those free ones to go.
This was the best UC’s offense has looked in quite some time. After a run of visciously competitive slugfests, including last Saturday’s grind against Wichita State, such an easy victory should be an important momentum boost as the Bearcats play three of their next four games on the road.
Best Individual Stat Line - Jarron Cumberland
We could call it a three-way tie between Cumberland, Jenifer and Scott, but with 23 points, five assists and four rebounds, not to mention a sublime shooting performance, Cumberland gets the slight edge.