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Cincinnati Loses First Xavier Game of John Brannen Era

Bearcats fall to 6-3 with a 73-66 loss to Xavier.

NCAA Basketball: Cincinnati at Xavier Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati Bearcats continued their struggles and demons at Cintas Center, losing to Xavier 73-66 on Saturday. For Xavier coach Travis Steele, it’s his first taste of victory in this rivalry after losing last year’s game. Cincinnati coach John Brannen kicks off his career 0-1.

This Cincinnati teams remains a work-in-progress but among the issues and the reasons you can identify for why Cincinnati lost on Saturday, the biggest would have to (sadly) be Jarron Cumberland.

Throughout this season, Jarron has never looked “right”. He has been dealing with injuries since the summer and has been banged up with new injuries in several games, he was benched for the game against Alabama A&M, and his body language has rarely been good.

But the struggles were certainly evident on Saturday as Jarron shot the ball poorly and did not defend well.

It’s going to be hard for Cincinnati to win many games without Cumberland and without him playing at, or close as possible, to 100%. Makes you wonder if they might have had a better chance without him on Saturday?

Naji Marshall, with Cumberland guarding him at times, tied a career-high with 31 points and was able to do whatever he wanted for much of the game.

Offensively, Cumberland was not good. He shot 4 of 14 and finished with 11 points. He did not make his first field goal until 15 minutes into the game. He also shot just 1 of 8 from three, some of which were not good looks at all. There were also 4 turnovers, which is inexcusable for a player of his stature.

Cumberland won AAC Player of the Year Award in 2019 and was projected by many to be a First or Second Team All American in 2020. At this rate, he won’t even make the Honorable Mentions All-AAC team, let alone any type of All-American team.

Some of the supporting cast for Cincinnati played well, but it feels like to win big games like this, Cincinnati needs a combination of role players and Jarron to succeed and not just one of the other.

Keith Williams started strong, scoring 9 points in the first 10 minutes and would finish with a team 15 points (shot 6 of 15). Jaevin Cumberland scored 14 points off the bench, on 8 free throws and shot just 2 of 10.

Cumberland cousins combined to shot 6 of 24 and 3 of 16 from three. Whether the opponent is Xavier or Colgate or Alabama A&M, the Bearcats will never win games with those types of numbers.

Mika Adams-Woods continued his strong play and should really be inserted into the starting five sooner than later. He hit all 4 of his shots, including 2 threes, finishing with 10 points. He also had a great heads up play late in the game - Xavier’s Quentin Goodin dunked the ball and did a little flexing for the camera. Adams-Woods took the inbounds pass and flew down the court with the Bearcats playing 5-on-4 and hit the layup. Great hustle and awareness for the freshman.

Trevon Scott’s final Shootout ended with him being a total non-factor. In 35 minutes he scored 2 points (1-7 shooting) and grabbed 6 rebounds.

Every Cincinnati starter had 4 fouls (Keith Williams had 5) except Chris McNeal who did not commit one.

The bench and depth remains an issue for Cincinnati. Adams-Woods and Jaevin both played over 20 minutes, but beyond that Mamoudou Diarra played 7 minutes and Jeremiah Davenport played 4. No Zach Harvey and no Trevor Moore (away from team due to personal reasons). Diarra did have one of his stronger performances, grabbing 6 rebounds and hitting 1 shot.

What’s Next

Cincinnati is now 6-3. They round out their December gauntlet with three teams that made the NCAA Tournament in 2019 - Colgate at home next Saturday, Tennessee on 12/18 from Fifth Third, and Iowa on 12/21 from Chicago in the Legends Classic.