- 18.8 points per game
- 4.4 rebounds per game
- 3.6 assists per game
- 1.1 steals per game
- .404/.388/.773 shooting splits
When a season ends for the Cincinnati Bearcats, we have a tradition here at Down the Drive. For players who will be returning, we do a season in review where we examine what they did well and what they need to improve on for the following year. For players who are departing after playing multiple years, whether due to graduation, transfer or the call of the professional level, we take some time to appreciate their time with the Bearcats.
This offseason threw a bit of a wrench in that plan, with a number of players considering new destinations. Chief among them was Jarron Cumberland. Telling the story of the 2019-18 Bearcats would be patently ridiculous without including Cumberland, but for more than a month, as he decided whether to leave for the NBA, the Bearcats were stuck waiting and so were we. Now that Cumberland has made the choice to make one more run with the Bearcats, he can focus on next season, the coaching staff can begin planning, the fan base can celebrate and, least importantly, we finally know how to review the 2018-19 season for the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year.
If we rewind all the way back to the beginning of the campaign, we’ll remember that this was the start of a major turning point in Cumberland’s career. After playing in the shadow of Jacob Evans, Gary Clark and Kyle Washington for two seasons, he was finally set to make this his team. He had reached stardom during the previous March and with most of the starting lineup gone, it was his time. In the season opener, he scored 22 points in a disappointing loss to Ohio State, but with 17 shot attempts, it was clear that Cumberland would do whatever he could to lift the Bearcats.
However, after that opening night effort, Cumberland took a bit of a step back. Part of it was because the Bearcats didn’t need him to be a superstar against teams like North Carolina Central and Arkansas-Pine Bluff because he really showed up in the title game of the Emerald Coast Classic against Ole Miss, scoring 25 points against a team that would play in the NCAA Tournament. Still, through the non-conference schedule, Cumberland averaged 16.2 points, 2.9 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game. That is perfectly solid work, all-conference level even, but with the knowledge we have of what he would accomplish the rest of the year, those numbers are strikingly low by comparison.
Despite needing a little time to get up to speed, the signs were there that he was about to take the AAC by storm. He made 47.1 percent of his three pointers while attempting 5.2 per game and he scored at least 20 points five times in non-conference play. Any chance that Cumberland would be merely great and not exceptional were erased as he laid waste to the league, averaging nearly 19.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. Opponents did everything they could to stop him, jamming him up on the perimeter and playing aggressive defense when he drove to the rim. None of it mattered. Even when teams found a way to limit his scoring ability, he was able to facilitate the offense and create for his teammates, which is why he not only led the team in scoring, but in assists (3.6 per game) and assist rate (25.6 percent).
Cumberland’s crowning achievement came in the AAC title game. Facing off against a Houston team that seemed to have the Bearcats’ number, the 6’5” junior pushed his team to victory, dropping in 33 points to go with eight rebounds as UC won its second-straight conference tournament championship.
The season still ended in some disappointment, with the Bearcats falling short in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against Iowa, but Cumberland’s final line for the campaign is the stuff of legends. His usage rate of 32 percent led the entire AAC by a long shot, with UConn’s Jalen Adams second at 28.5 percent. His 18.8 points per game average was the highest by a Bearcat since Sean Kilpatrick was an All-American in 2014. He set a personal-best player efficiency rating of 23.0 by improving his shooting from beyond the arc (38.8 percent) and at the free-throw line (77.3 percent), which became a big part of his game, as he averaged six foul shots per game and attempted at least 10 in eight separate contests. Along with his positive contributions on offense (112.2 rating), he was a more than capable on defense (98.6 rating). You could make minor critiques about his overall field goal percentage (career-low 40.4 percent), but that is a pittance compared to a litany of outstanding accomplishments.
The Best of the Best
Nov. 19 vs. Western Michigan
The Broncos had no answer for Cumberland, who drained 11-of-19 shots from the field, including 4-of-7 from three, to tally 27 points. As if that wasn’t enough, he also handed out six assists.
Nov. 24 vs. Ole Miss.
Cumberland’s shot wasn’t really working in this one, but he still managed to contribute 25 points by putting the ball on the deck and getting to the foul line. He sank 13-of-14 at the stripe in this victory.
Dec. 19 vs. UCLA
With 25 points in 27 minutes, Cumberland helped lead the Bearcats to a resounding triumph over the Bruins.
Jan. 12 vs. UConn
The Huskies nearly upset the Bearcats in overtime, but they had to settle for watching Cumberland collect 22 points, seven assists and six rebounds across 42 minutes.
Jan. 15 vs. USF
With a career-high 34 points on 9-of-20 from the field and 14-of-16 at the foul line, Cumberland dominated against the Bulls.
Jan. 24 vs. Tulsa
UC won by 24 points and Cumberland made five threes and finished with 23 points of his own. Just another day at the office.
Jan. 27 at Temple
The Bearcats trailed by as many as 14 points but that didn’t matter after Cumberland scored 18 of his 25 points in the final 20 minutes to lead a rally to victory.
Feb. 2 vs. SMU
Cumberland nearly had a double-double (24 points, nine rebounds, five assists) during this victory.
Feb. 17 vs. Wichita State
After a difficult road loss to Houston, Cumberland rolled out 27 points, six rebounds and five assists in a win against the Shockers.
March 2 vs. Memphis
The Tigers may be building a dynasty on the recruiting trail right now, but they couldn’t stop Cumberland from scoring 26 points in this game.
March 15 vs. SMU
In their first game of the AAC Tournament, the Bearcats got an incredible performance from Cumberland, who scored 26 points and dished out eight assists while playing 40 minutes. Little did we know that this would be his second-best game of the tournament.
March 17 vs. Houston
The best occurred when he helped the Bearcats collect a championship with 33 points against the regular season champion Cougars.
For Next Season
It is difficult to imagine Cumberland being better than he was this past season, but a new offensive system could help him do just that. However, the fact that there is a next season is all the Bearcats really need from Cumberland.