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What Went Wrong: Second Half Comeback Falls Short for Cincinnati in Loss to Memphis

Bearcats lose in Memphis 60-49.

NCAA Basketball: Cincinnati at Memphis Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati lost 60-49 on Thursday night in Memphis, snapping a two-game winning streak and dropping their records to 10-7 overall and 3-2 in AAC play. The 7 losses matches their total from all of last season and the 2 conference losses match the season totals for 2017 and 2018. The loss also snaps a 6 game winning streak against Memphis.

The first half was a struggle for Cincinnati, but they played well in the second half and fought back into the game.

There are two key themes to this game - the Bearcats beat themselves with way too many mistakes and missed opportunities. But also, someone needs to do something about the officiating in college basketball.

Lack of bench play

Let’s start with what went wrong, from Cincinnati’s’ standpoint and from what they can control. The bench, is an issue I have harped on throughout this season and Thursday was the worst performance of the year. Jaevin Cumberland was the only bench player to score, and that was on a three pointer late in the game.

Jarron Cumberland, Keith Williams, Trevon Scott, and Chris Vogt all played 32+ minutes. Off the bench, Jaevin played 18 minutes (and shot 1-5), Chris McNeal played 13 minutes, Mamoudou Diarra played 5, and Jaume Sorolla played 6.

Winning on college basketball on the road is extremely difficult, and this season has been the best example of that. It’s even harder to win on the road, when you don’t have the depth for it.

I would love to ask John Brannen about Jeremiah Davenport and Zach Harvey? The two freshman have not been playing much at all this year. Even if they aren’t the most productive minutes, to me, it’s important to get them experience and also get them on the floor just to give some of the starters a rest. It will also benefit guys like Cumberland and Scott, who already have a ton of tread on their tires, to play closer to 30 minutes or less as the season continues to progress and we get closer to March.

Jaevin played well against Tulsa, but has mostly shot the ball poorly lately. Sorolla’s only role is to backup Vogt for a few minutes. McNeal plays a decent amount but doesn’t provide much when he is in there and Diarra has been playing better and he defends and rebounds well.

Poor First Half

Cincinnati and Memphis each scored 29 points in the second half, as the Bearcats made a strong comeback. But the first half was way too bad and they dug themselves in too deep of a hole. The 20 point first half was the team’s worst of the season.

They trailed 31-20 and shot 26% from the field. They scored just 4 points through the first 7 minutes and failed to score in the final 4 minutes.

Trevon Scott and Chris Vogt

Love both of these guys, but Thursday was a struggle. For Vogt, I think it was purely a matchup problem. Memphis is a fast and athletic team and they play a bit smaller. Vogt is a traditional, back-to-the-basket center, something Memphis does not have and that posed some matchup problems. Vogt shot just 4-9 and for the first time since the opening game against Ohio State, did not score double-figures (9 points).

Trevon Scott had a rough game and lost to Memphis for the first time in his career. He shot 0-7 in the first half and 2-13 in the game (0-2 from three).

I talked about the bench above and the thing about it is, Cincinnati can overcome that obstacle if everything else is clicking. Unfortunately, the struggles of the two bigs plus the bench is too much for any team to overcome.

The Referees

Here’s the one you’ve been waiting for right? The referees were AWFUL. Now let me caveat this section with this - the referees were a barrier for Cincinnati and impacted the game in a big way. However, you can’t go on the road and shoot 30% with 3 bench points, commit 16 turnovers and have the types of long scoring droughts they had AND blame other people. The bottom line is Cincinnati made too many mistakes to win this game.

That said, they still did have a chance to win this game! The turning point was in the finl four minute segment of the game, Cincinnati trailed by 4, with the ball.

Rob Dauster is a national basketball writer for NBC, which makes this example perfect. This isn’t a bias Cincy beat writer spewing nonsense. With a light sports schedule on Thursday, many eyes were on this game and twitter was on fire about these officials.

This was the turning point though, because of the massive point swing. Cumberland WAS fouled. That’s not even debatable. The only debate is which guy fouled him, because two Memphis players hit him. If he goes to the line and hits both, we have a 2 point game. Officials do not call the foul, they call a technical, Memphis hits both, then hits a basket with the ball, and that sealed the game.

Here’s a replay from a different, slo-mo angle.

It wasn’t just this play too. There were dozens of them that you could point to. And it went both ways. And it’s not just this game. It’s every game.

I’m not blaming the refs for this game, and I’m not blaming conspiracies against Cincinnati. College basketball has a serious problem with the officiating. This is a fact, not an opinion. Jay Bilas has said it. Multiple media outlets and writers have said it. It’s a real problem. It’s one thing to be a problem on a Thursday night in January, but what happens when this problem spills into March and costs some team it’s season? That would be a real shame.

What’s Next

Cincinnati returns home to host East Carolina on Sunday night at 6pm. ECU is 8-9 overall and 2-2 in AAC play, but they are an improved and competitive team, despite their record.

Jayden Gardner might be the best player you haven’t heard of or seen play. The 6’7 sophomore is averaging 21.2 ppg on 56% shooting and 9.1 rpg. He will pose a tough matchup problem for UC.

Bearcats play ECU and Temple before a challenging three game stretch with SMU, Houston, and Wichita State.