Well, at least they won.
In all seriousness, this is a win that necessitated growth from the Bearcats. When Keith Williams, one of your senior leaders, picks up two quick fouls and has to sit out most of the first half, other guys have to step up and contribute. This “next man up” mentality lacked somewhat in the first half before Cincinnati really picked it up and overwhelmed the Lipscomb Bisons in the last ten minutes of the game, winning 67-55.
Zach Harvey was given an early opportunity after Williams was called for two fouls, but expectations were low for a guy who had only participated in a third of UC’s offseason practices due to injury. Taking that into account, Harvey impressed with his more aggressive play compared to last year. While everyone else looked tentative, Harvey attacked the Lipscomb zone to force the defense to react and was the Bearcats’ leading scorer off the bench.
The post combination of Rapolas Ivanauskas and Chris Vogt had 23 points on 11/16 shooting and 13 rebounds (7 offensive). Rap had 9 in the first half as the Cincinnati offense was struggling and Vogt was vital down the stretch with 6 points in the final 5 minutes of the game. There were some lapses defensively and Rap seemed to short-arm some close shot attempts, but I’ll chalk the latter up to first-game jitters.
The starting backcourt of Mika Adams-Woods and David DeJulius along with Jeremiah Davenport were the reason the Bearcats overcame a 9-point deficit in the second half. After an underwhelming first half, David DeJulius came to life scoring all eight of his points in the second half to go along with six rebounds, four assists, and most importantly, zero turnovers. Mika Adams-Woods was probably the only Bearcat that was consistently good over the entire game which is no surprise since he has cultivated a certain reputation for his steadiness. He led the Bearcats in scoring with 16 and he only committed one foul in 33 minutes of play.
I don’t like the term “X-factor” because it’s usually used for a player who isn’t that good, but commentators love to talk about the player’s positive attitude. To me, that just means he’s a cheerleader. But Jeremiah Davenport was the Bearcats X-factor Wednesday evening. Davenport compiled 4 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds, and 2 steals in his 14 minutes. He defended and rebounded exceptionally well at both the three and four positions including a steal that led to a fast break dunk. I’m not sure if the Bearcats win this game without Davenport’s spark off the bench.
For almost 30 minutes of game time, this game was tough to watch. The Bearcats were 4/22 from behind the arc which allowed Lipscomb to stay in a zone for most of the game which kept their players fresh. I must applaud Lipscomb’s defensive gameplan as they frequently changed their half-court defense every few possessions disrupting the Bearcats’ offensive rhythm. The Bisons also mixed in their full court press occasionally, but not too often due to their lack of depth.
One of the most frustrating stats was Cincinnati’s 7/13 mark from the charity stripe. The 53.8% is disappointing, but so is the amount of attempts. Thirteen free throw attempts shows that Lipscomb’s zone was largely effective in keeping the Bearcats from attacking the basket. Expect future opponents to utilize a zone to neutralize any type of driving or slashing from the perimeter players.
Although the Bearcats only allowed 55 points, it seems pretty clear that the Bearcats need to improve on defense. Lipscomb took advantage of the Bearcats help-man defense in the first half by utilizing back cuts and screen slips for easy layups and/or free throws. The worst victims were Gabe Madsen and Mamoudou Diarra. I’m willing to cut Madsen some slack since he is a freshman that didn’t get a proper offseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is clear he is further behind than I thought. Madsen gets caught looking at the ball while his man cuts both behind and in front of him.
On the other hand, Mamoudou Diarra is in his fourth year and still looks lost on defense. He sprints out to the perimeter without shuffling his feet to defend his man, but he gets exposed because he’s out of control. His man pump fakes and easily dribbles past him while Diarra uses his hands to mitigate the disastrous gamble and then he gets called for a foul. Diarra also helps on defense for way too long which leaves his man wide open in the corner. If you watch the end of the half against Lipscomb, you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. The ball will be at the top of the key while Diarra is in the short corner and his man, Jake Wolfe, is in the corner. When the point guard drives on Diarra’s side, he comes all the way over and cuts off the drive before the ball is kicked out to Wolfe who is wide open in the corner. Thankfully, his man missed, but this is poor defensive awareness from Diarra.
When Mamoudou fully commits to the driving guard, he is in position to take a charge but doesn’t. By not forcing the referee to make a call, Diarra is the odd man out. Combine Diarra’s defensive lapses with Davenport’s emergence and one can easily see Diarra losing playing time to the energetic sophomore.
Three In One
Tari Eason probably encapsulates all three categories. He looked ready on defense and had a great block followed by an alley-oop finish on the other end where he ran past everyone on the floor. Unfortunately, he picked up two fouls over 90 feet away from the basket and had the ball easily stolen from him when he was out of control driving from the wing. In essence, it was a typical performance from a freshman where he flashed his abilities while also having his flaws exposed. Welcome to Division I basketball.
This is only the first game and beating Lipscomb is far more encouraging than a win against Cal St. Fullerton or Tennessee Tech because the Bisons are a fundamentally sound and savvy D1 team. Norwood University is up next and it’s going to be a battle. Hopefully, we can get a W.