For the second year in a row, the Cincinnati Bearcats lost their opening basketball game 64-56 against Ohio State.
This was a weird and pretty ugly game, one the Bearcats had every opportunity to win. Coming out of this game, I found myself way more encouraged than upset.
Cincinnati opened the game up 5-0 and Ohio State didn’t score until about 6 minutes in. Bearcats led 26-19 at halftime. Both teams clearly had opening night jitters and or rust. Ohio State shot 31% (11% from three) and didn’t make a free throw, while Cincinnati shot 29% (25% from three) and 38% of free throws.
The scoring picked up in the second half, with the Buckeyes outscoring the Bearcats 45-30. The final score of 64-56 was the exact same score as 2018.
I am usually not one to blame referees, but there were some HIGHLY questionable foul calls including a “charge” on Jarron Cumberland in one of the final possessions. Cincinnati was called for 27 fouls, compared to 18 fouls for Ohio State.
For the game, the Bearcats shot 33% (19-57) and made just 4 out of 21 three pointers, while hitting 14 of 23 free throws. You hit a couple more threes, or half your free throws, and this is a completely different game.
After the game, the new head coach properly defended the poor offensive performance, saying ““Lack of offensive rhythm had a lot to do with it being the first game.”
It’s more than just the first game too. Only five players returned from the 2018-19 team, plus 7 newcomers (4 transfer, 3 freshman). 10 players played, in total, on Wednesday and outside of last week’s exhibition game, playing together is new for these guys.
Jarron Cumberland, especially, struggled. He led the timing in scoring with 13 points, but made just 4 baskets (4 of 13) and was 0-5 from three.
1. Despite all those missed threes and missed opportunities, it was encouraging to see Cincinnati in that position. You could see the elements of John Brannen’s offensive system come to life. Reportedly, only 30% of the offense is in place right now as the team continues to gel and learn it together. There was a lot of passing and a lot of off ball movement. Without disrespecting the old coach, Cincinnati’s primary offense over the past few years was stand around, hold the ball for 33-34 seconds and shoot. There was a lot of standing and not a ton of moving. Last night was quite the opposite. The pace was quick and the opportunities were there. Shots will fall in the future.
2. I thought Chris McNeal played very well in his debut at PG. He scored 10 points and had 4 steals. His defense impressed me the most and going back to the above point, as this team comes together, and played become more and more comfortable with one another, McNeal showed that he has the ability to lead the offense
3. Jarron won’t play this bad forever. Despite leading the team with 13 points, it was obviously Cumberland was not himself. He was struggling to find rhythm, but he had plenty of opportunities. Remember, this is a guy who sat out of practice more than he was on the court throughout the summer and fall as he was nursing a foot injury. Let him find himself and let him get comfortable in this new offense and build some confidence. Then, we will see the Cumberland we all know and love.
And it will be contagious too, right? Once his shots start falling, you have to believe all of the team’s shots will start falling.
4. Players played through mistakes. This was different from the previous coaching staff, who would often remove players following a bad missed shot or a costly turnover. Everyone made a ton of mistakes, but were encouraged to fight through them and overcome them.
The big guys (Jack Vogt and Jaume Sorolla) need to stay out of foul trouble as Vogt fouled out in 14 minutes. The rebounding MUST improve as Ohio State won the battle on the boards 39-33.
Looking forward to see the freshman progress as Zach Harvey and Jeremiah Davenport played very sparingly and Mika Adams-Woods did not play at all.
Trevon Scott grabbed 12 rebounds and his defense was there, but he is going to need to be a secondary scorer as well. He was 0-7 from the floor.
Mamoudou Diarra played 3 minutes and didn’t contribute much. As a junior and one of five returning players, he is going to need to contribute off the bench.
Last year, Cincinnati last to Ohio State, despite having the same roster and coach as the previous season. Coming out of last year’s loss, I felt discouraged. You could see flaws in the roster, you could see that it was all about one man scoring (Cumberland) and slow offense. But last night, you could see the potential that this team has and I found myself much more excited coming off this year’s loss and last year’s.
Call me crazy, but I would much rather see Cincinnati lose the way they did against Ohio State as opposed to beating up on a team with a 300 RPI from the SWAC. Games like that don’t help you long term, and now Cincinnati can really get to work and build off this loss. It worked last year, as they rattled off 9 straight wins after the loss.
The schedule this year is much harder. The Bearcats’ home opener is next Monday 11/11 against Drake, followed by another home game against Alabama A&M. They then travel to the Virgin Islands for the Paradise Jam Tournament.
Tweets of the Game
Freshman Zach Harvey is the new #23. He played just 2 minutes and hit 1 of 2 free throws. Harvey was a top 50 recruit for 2019 and will certainly have more opportunities in the coming weeks against inferior opponents.
The Bearcats fans who made the trip to Columbus did not bark. And “kills” were not recorded by the announcers, coaching staff, players, or fans. It’s almost like a “kill” is not a basketball stat and it’s weird to think it should be.