Winning has become second nature for the Cincinnati Bearcats. Following their 73-68 win over the SMU Mustangs on Saturday night, they are the proud owners of a seven-game winning streak. Even in that triumph, their were some close calls. UC led by as many as 12 points but allowed the Mustangs to tie the game twice in the second half and have a shot at forcing overtime near the end. Luck favored the Bearcats, however, and they claimed a victory because of it. Here are some other determining factors from that win.
The three-point line has been a fickle beast for the Bearcats this season. They have struggled extensively to defend it and have not always been the most efficient or most reliant team when it comes to incorporating it offensively. Against the Mustangs, that philosophy changed a bit, as there were a number of sets that were specifically designed to get an open look for a shooter from long-range. The Bearcats took 26 shots from three-point range, while making 10 of them. They are only averaging 18.8 attempts per game and are 312th in the country in three-point attempt rate, according to Team Rankings, so this was a bit of a change of pace.
Jarron Cumberland was at the forefront of draining those triples as he made half of the team’s total output on 10 tries. The junior’s shots came in a variety of ways. He made some after navigating around a screen, some while pulling up and others in the flow of the offense while moving off the ball. The shooting variety for Cumberland was matched by some strong passing up and down the roster. The Bearcats assisted on 16 of their 26 made field goals and got at least three assists from Cumberland (five), Justin Jenifer (three) and Cane Broome (three).
Cumberland wasn’t alone in hitting some big threes either. Trevor Moore came off the bench to knock down a trio of triples, finishing with nine points in the game. The sophomore from Houston posted a game-high offensive rating of 162 and sparked an active bench presence for the Bearcats. In many ways, their depth overpowered the Mustangs in this contest, as UC reserves outscored their SMU counterparts 20-1. Opportunity played a large part. Led by Broome (11 points in 17 minutes), three players logged at least 16 minutes off the bench for the Bearcats, while nobody did for SMU. In fact, only two reserves even got in the game for the Mustangs.
Since their opponent had so few reinforcements to count on, the Bearcats were able to key in on SMU’s top contributors. While they had few answers for the high-scoring talents of Jahmal McMurray, the Bearcats were able to limit the game play styles of Jimmy Whitt Jr. and Ethan Chargois. Whitt Jr. did score 12 points, which is right in line with his season average, but he needed 16 shots to get there. To make matters worse, he had more turnovers (three) than assists (two), drastically missing his season average of 4.3 dimes per game. The Bearcats did an even better job on Chargois, limiting a player averaging 12.4 points per game to only six, which matched a season-low.
Chargois’ issues also played into another key to UC’s victory. In the preview for this game, I said both of these teams are solid up front and good on the boards, especially on the offensive end. The Bearcats were able to win the inside battle on Saturday, outscoring the Mustangs 26-20 in the paint and out-rebounding them by a 35-32 margin, which was buoyed by a 32.1 percent to 25 percent edge in offensive rebound rate.
Each victory during this current streak has shown that the Bearcats can win in multiple ways. They added to that on Saturday and will try to add even more in the coming week against Memphis and Houston.
Best Individual Stat Line - Jarron Cumberland
Cumberland either had a game-high or tied for a game-high in points (24), rebounds (nine), assists (five), three-pointers (five) and field goals made (nine). Just give him every basketball award that exists.