The Cincinnati Bearcats got a resume-building win last night over a solid Furman team that will probably win the SOCON this season and be dangerous in the NCAA Tournament. The Bearcats showed signs of life from beyond the arc, added a new wrinkle to their half court defense to shore up their deficiencies, and altered the starting lineup to provide more balance on both ends of the floor. Let’s get into the Bearcats 78-73 win over the Furman Paladins.
The Bearcats defense was much improved this game. They held a very efficient Furman team to under 40% from the field and 25% from three. Unfortunately, UC also committed 21 fouls which led to 27 free throw attempts in a game full of ticky-tack calls. This game also saw the implementation of John Brannen’s half-court defense “13”, which is a 1-3-1 zone that disrupted the Paladins offensive rhythm. It was nice to see Brannen make this adjustment after Xavier destroyed the man-to-man D on Sunday. The zone did a fairly good job of hiding Chris Vogt’s weakness as a defender, but the big man still fouled out for the second straight game.
Turnovers and Footwork
Turnovers are extremely common early in the season. Add this to the fact the Bearcats did not turn the ball over much in the first two games and you can see why I am not that worried about the sixteen turnovers UC had against Furman. Having said that, the amount of traveling violations and stepping out of bounds turnovers are alarming. Both of those types of turnovers simply come down to footwork and spatial awareness. In each of the three games this season, Cincinnati players have stepped out of bounds while head faking in the corner three area. Also, as Division I players, you cannot travel that much. It just can’t happen. These are unforced turnovers that will be cleaned up as the season goes on.
The Tari Eason Experience
One of the big surprises of the game came before the tip-off. Freshman Tari Eason replaced Rapolas Ivanauskas in the starting lineup for defensive reasons. Eason brings much-needed length, quickness, and instincts to a rather vulnerable defensive frontcourt and Ivanauskas brings a veteran presence and steadiness/scoring punch to the bench. Eason still needs to learn to play under control on defense because he can pick up careless fouls, but you cannot deny his activity on both ends of the floor. He has a knack for stripping the ball without fouling which is invaluable to this Bearcats team. With 8 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, and a steal, expect to see Eason continue to emerge as a key cog in the starting lineup.
Ice in MAW’s Veins
If a team is going to intentionally foul us toward the end of the game, I want the ball in Mika Adams-Woods’ hands. He had absolutely no fear as he effortlessly drained four clutch free throws to ice the game. If Mika can draw more fouls, he can be really dangerous since he is automatic from the charity stripe.
Keith Williams Steps Up… with Room for Improvement
Keith Williams was the player of the game with 27 points on 10/17 shooting. He was present throughout all 40 minutes and was relentlessly driving to the basket and finishing with authority. The only negative was his 6/12 shooting from the free throw line. If he makes half of his misses, the game probably goes a little smoother down the stretch. Nevertheless, Cincinnati is not even in the game if it wasn’t for Williams since no one else was in double digits. Plus, Williams was almost an 80% FT shooter last season so I expect this to work itself out as the season goes on.
Another Thing I Was Wrong About
While my score prediction was almost perfect (I guessed 76-71), I was wrong about one player in particular. I have been banging the drum about playing Zach Harvey more. I know he missed a lot of practices while recovering from injury, but I still felt that he should see more playing time. Well, for the time being, I was very wrong about that. Harvey just looks very uncomfortable on the floor and it’s clear that he cannot be a primary or even secondary ball handler. Twice against Furman Harvey went to dribble the ball between his legs and he nearly turned it over. As Jeremiah Davenport continues to emerge (had two well-timed three’s against Furman) as a hybrid forward, Harvey will be the odd man out. I hope Harvey can find some stability soon, but time will tell.
- Despite his first three turnovers as a Cincinnati Bearcat, David DeJulius compiled a nice stat line with 7 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists. That is a player that makes the most of his minutes.
- Ivanauskas really needs to learn how to close out when defending the perimeter. He jumps out at players and they easily dribble around him. He needs to shuffle his feet as sprints toward the defender with a hand up in order to give himself a better chance to contest the shot
- Diarra looked good as the ball hawk at the top of the 1-3-1 zone but it looks like his role this season will be similar to last season - energy disruptor that makes the most of spot duty.
- Second straight game where Gabe Madsen doesn’t play. He’ll be a nice player but he’s got a long way to go to contribute on the defensive end. Mason Madsen is still nursing a foot/ankle injury.
- Nice to see Mike Saunders, Jr. be aggressive and get fouled on a drive. 2/2 from the line.