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Work-In-Progress: Bearcats Beat UNLV to Improve to 5-2

Bearcats play third straight overtime game and knock off UNLV 72-65

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

It’s never easy when it comes to Cincinnati athletics and we will continue to live by the phrase - “a win is a win”.

Cincinnati’s men’s basketball team returned to Cincinnati to host UNLV, after going 2-1 in the 2019 Paradise Jam. Rebels came into the game 3-5 and this was supposed to be the “easiest” game of their upcoming gauntlet schedule.

Cincinnati trailed by 9 points at halftime, but flipped a switch in the second and played 19 amazing minutes of basketball, outscoring UNLV by 20 points in the second half through 19 minutes.

Bearcats led 58-48 with 1:10 remaining, but a few turnovers, missed shots, missed free throws, and ill-advised fouls (and a little bit of referee controversy) allowed UNLV to come back and ultimately tie the game at 60-60 sending it to overtime, the third straight overtime game for Cincinnati.

The only thing that truly matters is that they got the win, hanging on 72-65. Jarron Cumberland, who was banged up last week, returned and looked healthy, leading the team with 20 points and grabbing 6 rebounds and 5 assists. Keith Williams continued his strong play, shooting 6 of 15 for 14 points and also grabbing 8 rebounds.

Freshman Mika Adams-Woods was very impressive off the bench, playing 29 minutes and leading the bench scorers with 10 points and also grabbing 5 rebounds. Senior starting PG Chris McNeal only played 13 minutes and didn’t contribute much going 0-3 and dishing out 3 assists. Should Adams-Woods be the starter moving forward? It will be interesting to see how John Brannen handles the point guard position.

Chris Vogt added 14 points and 5 rebounds, continuing his strong start to the season. Vogt is averaging 13 ppg and 7 rpg.

Fundamental Issues

This team has been fascinating to watch and it’s hard to gauge what they are or what they will become. It’s easy to make excuses about a new coaching staff, new players, new system, injuries and all of that. But a lot of what has hurt the Bearcats early on have been simple basketball issues.

Fundamental issues continue to plague the Bearcats. They shot 19-29 from the free throw line, including a few clutch misses at the end of regulation.

The turnovers were limited, only 11 of them, but again, some just came at inopportune times. They are also coming from the wrong people. Senior leaders Jarron Cumberland and Trevon Scott each committed 3 turnovers. It’s one thing if it was the freshman or the transfers, but these guys should not be turning the ball over.

You want to see progress, you want to be encouraged by these close calls, but I am way more scared and nervous by them. Close November/December games are supposed to help build character and lead to growth come March. I personally, have been preaching that, but there hasn’t been a ton of progression from game to game thus far.

It’s early, yes. But the schedule is about to get really tough.

What’s Next

Bearcats host Vermont on Tuesday. Vermont was an NCAA Tournament team in 2019. They are currently 6-2 and lost to Virginia by just 6 points. Anthony Lamb is their best player, playing 28 minutes per game, averaging 16.8 ppg and 8 rpg.

Following Vermont, will be Brannen’s first taste of the Xavier rivalry in Norwood on Saturday.

Then Colgate, Tennessee, and Iowa to close out the 2019 calendar year.

The schedule is tough and we are about to learn a lot about this team. Are they up for the challenge? Are they progressing forward? And most importantly, are they going to be an NCAA Tournament team in March?