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Box Score Deep Dive: A Loss Built on Missed Threes and Free Throws

The Bearcats let a winnable game slip away because they just couldn’t knock down shots from beyond the arc or at the foul line.

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

While the singular play that cemented the Cincinnati Bearcats’ loss to the East Carolina Pirates happened in the final seconds, as Jarron Cumberland was blocked driving to the basket, that was certainly not the only reason the Bearcats were defeated. In the 73-71 road setback, the Bearcats did a lot of things wrong and the Pirates did a lot of things right. Let’s take a closer look.

If there is one statistic that really tells the story it is three-point shooting, especially in the first half. The Bearcats are not the best long range shooting team in the country, but their performance on Saturday was dismal by any standard. They finally hit their first three-pointer of the game with 9:04 to play in the second half. Before that, they missed 11-straight attempts, including all 10 in the first 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, the Pirates drained 5-of-11 threes in the first half and had knocked down eight before the Bearcats made one. In total, East Carolina shot 40.9 percent from three, outscoring the Bearcats 27-9 from such a distance.

Justin Jenifer (1-for-5) was uncharacteristically off, while Keith Williams (0-for-3) and Cane Broome (0-for-2) each missed a few shots from three. Even Cumberland, who made two of the team’s three triples, was not particularly efficient, netting just 2-of-6 tries.

UC’s bad shooting was not saved for three-point land. The Bearcats got themselves 18 free throw attempts and missed more (10) than they made (8). In a game decided by two points, leaving that many freebies on the board is a real problem. Nysier Brooks has really improved his foul shooting this season, but that wasn’t the case on Saturday when he made just 3-of-9 attempts at the stripe. The Bearcats are usually a decent free throw shooting squad (70.8 percent this season), but something just wasn’t right on Saturday.

Shortcomings on offense were compounded by some defensive mistakes. The Bearcats allowed the Pirates to shoot at least 50 percent from the floor in both halves, while letting up an effective field goal percentage of 60.6 percent. On the season, UC has allowed an opponent effective field goal percentage of 46.7 percent.

East Carolina also separated itself by getting a lot more production from its entire roster. The Pirates outscored the Bearcats 25-6 in bench points, with reserve guard K.J. Davis making the largest impact, as he drained 6-of-10 shots, including three triples, to finish with 17 points. Meanwhile, the entirety of UC’s bench combined to net 3-of-9 shot attempts.

It remains to be seen just how repeatable ECU’s effort can be, however, since the Bearcats did keep them from getting many shots to fall close to the basket. In fact, the Bearcats outscored the Pirates by a wide margin in the paint (38-18) while securing 14 offensive rebounds to get 14 second chance points. The Pirates had only five offensive boards and scored eight points on second opportunities. Leading the way, Brooks made up for his bad free throw shooting slightly by hauling in four offensive rebounds. If the Bearcats were just a bit better defensively or hit threes and foul shots at an average pace, they probably would have won easily.

Best Individual Stat Line - Trevon Scott

Scott came just a rebound short of his fourth double-double of the season (12 points, 9 rebounds) and was an important piece of UC’s offensive rebounding dominance. In addition, he handed out three assists and collected a steal. It’s an effort that will be forgotten since the Bearcats lost, but it’s worth appreciating.