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5 Observations from Cincinnati’s Win Over Tennessee

Cincinnati knocked off #21 Tennessee 78-66

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

Cincinnati beat #21 Tennessee 78-66 on Wednesday, getting the signature non-conference win this team desperately needed. It was a great bounce back game after losing two in a row to Xavier and Colgate (which ended in a debacle on Saturday).

This win should give the team some confidence and momentum heading into conference play in January and also adds a nice bullet point to their March resume as a quad 1 win was badly needed.

That was fun

Winning is fun. The last few years, Cincinnati did a lot of winning. But I have to be honest, scoring 78 points is a lot more fun than winning 55-54. “Rock fights” aren’t for everyone and this game was exciting from start to finish.

Cincinnati’s 78 points were the most anyone has scored against Tennessee this season. The Vols defense allowed just 55.3 ppg to opponents coming into Wednesday and no one had broken 70 points. The Bearcats shot an absurd 56% from the floor and really controlled the tempo throughout the game.

UC opened the game on an 8-0 run and it was obviously early on that this team was locked in and came to play. Only 8 guys played, with 7 of them making significant contributions.

John Brannen can coach

Can the haters and critics back off for a day? I’m not saying Brannen is the greatest coach to ever walk the UC sidelines, just because he beat Tennessee, but the harsh criticism following the Colgate game always seemed excessive and unwarranted. Let me correct myself - criticism is always welcome. Everyone (not just coaches) should welcome being criticized because everyone, no matter what you do, can always do better. Brannen is no exception. But calling him a terrible coach, questioning every single thing he does, and actually (for a very small group of people) wanting him fired and replaced with the old coach, is completely insane.

Brannen pushed the right buttons. He trusted his guys, despite foul trouble. He started the five best players for the first time this year and made the right subs at the right times.

And by the way, does anyone else get really excited when Cincinnati runs an inbound play? Brannen has proven to be excellent at drawing those up.

All-American Jarron Cumberland is coming

After the game, Brannen had this to say about the reigning conference player of the year...

Before the game, I tweeted out my prediction that Cincinnati would win, and Jarron would be locked in and have his best game. Well, his first half was rough - he was in foul trouble and couldn’t buy a basket and committed three turnovers.

He committed his fourth foul just 3 minutes into the second half. Cincinnati played 10 minutes without him, until he checked back in at the under-8 timeout. With the score 58-57, Jarron hit a huge three (his first and only one of the game) to put Cincinnati up 4 and from there, Tennessee never tied or took the lead again.

Jarron fouled out with 2 minutes to go. For a 5 minute stretch at the end of the game, he looked as good and sharp as he has all season. He hit that one clutch three, he was driving to the basket and hitting shots. He looked like he was getting into a rhythm. Hopefully he can build on that stretch and continue to get healthy and get better.

Mika Adams-Woods is the future...and the present!

I love Brannen’s decision to start Adams-Woods. But this wasn’t some strategic or wise coaching move, this was the only decision. Chris McNeal has struggled so far this year and it was important that Cincinnati got off to a hot start.

Well, what better way to start than seeing your freshman point guard hit a three pointer, on the very first possession of the game. Adams-Woods had 4 assists (tied with Jarron for team lead) and finished with 11 points.

His most impressive basket might have been late in the game when Chris Vogt, from the top of the key, hit a cutting Adams-Woods for a layup. It was a pretty play because typically the 6’0 PG finds a cutting 7’0 center down low, not the other way around.

You can see more flow, movement, and tempo in the offense when the offense runs through Adams-Woods

Strength of the big men

Coming into the year, we all believed this team would be good if Jarron was himself and Jaevin Cumberland and Keith Williams stepped up as secondary scorers. But who would have thought, through 11 games, that as good as all three of those guys have been, the x-factors of this team are the big men.

Chris Vogt and Jay Sorolla combined for 20 points, 8 rebounds on 9-12 shooting. Cincinnati will win a lot of games with that type of production.

And how about Trevon Scott? Scott has had some moments this year, but for the 38 minutes he played, he looked like 2018-19 Trevon Scott, leading the team in both points (15) and rebounds (7).

Additional notes:

  • Foul trouble played a serious role for both teams. Jarron fouled out and Vogt played with 4 fouls. For Tennessee, Lamonte Turner was called for 2 quick fouls in the first 2 minutes of the game. Freshman Josiah Jordan-James fouled out. There was also plenty of no calls, bad calls, and a flopping technical called late in the game.
  • The referees were absolutely atrocious. Cincinnati usually doesn’t overcome the officials, so it was nice to see that happen.
  • Tennessee center John Fulkerson started the game going 5-5 from the floor. But Cincinnati made adjustments and he only hit 1-3 shots in the second half.
  • Towards the end of the first half, Cincinnati went on a 10-0 run that happened with Jarron on the bench
  • Cincinnati shot 68% in the first half, 50% from three (4-8), and hit 2 of 2 free throws
  • I love seeing Chris Vogt dunk and flex afterwards. Vogt flex might be the new Justin Jackson meanface.
  • AAC is now 8-3 against the SEC this year, with Memphis and Cincinnati winning back-to-back games against Memphis

Last note, the crowd was definitely a factor. Cheers to everyone at Fifth Third Arena for being the team’s 6th man.

The players heard you!

What’s Next

Cincinnati closes out the non-conference portion of the schedule on Saturday night against Iowa. This game is in Chicago as part of the Legends Classic, that also includes Dayton vs Colorado.

Cincy fans know all about Iowa, following last year’s early exit from the tournament. There is a little less pressure, having gotten the signature win against Tennessee, but a win over Iowa Saturday would represent a huge success in the first two months. Say what you want about losses to Bowling Green and Colgate, but this schedule was far from easy and for Cincinnati to come away with 7-8 wins, while piecing together a new roster with new coaches is a success.

More on Saturday’s game to come.