Unfortunately, a global pandemic forced the NCAA to shut down the 2019-20 basketball season. Cincinnati Bearcats finished 20-10 (13-5), claiming first place (in a three-way tie) in the American Athletic Conference. They were in the mix for a 10th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance too.
This season had more ups-and-downs than any other season in recent memory - every game was a struggle.
Let’s look back at the 5 most notable and memorable moments of the Bearcats’ 2019-20 season.
- Sweeping Wichita State - Cincinnati is 6-1 (and won 6 in a row) since Wichita State joined the AAC before the 2017-18 season. Bearcats held on late to win 80-79 for their third straight win at Wichita on 2/6, their fifth win in a row at the time. And won 67-64 in regulation (snapping a four game overtime streak) in their second-to-last home game of the season
- Comeback vs Memphis - Bearcats came back from a late deficit and went to overtime at home with Memphis, ultimately winning 92-86. Trevon Scott finished with 25 points, 19 rebounds.
- Houston loses to UConn and Wichita State beats Tulsa - These two results in the final weekend of the season, meant that, along with the Bearcats beating Temple in the finale, that they would finish in a three-way tie for first place and claim the top seed in the conference tournament, via tiebreaker.
5. Trevon Scott 20-20 game
On February 19, Trevon Scott scored 22 points and grabbed 21 rebounds, giving him Cincinnati’s first 20/20 game since Kenyon Martin did it in 1998.
This exciting accomplishment would be higher on the list if Cincinnati didn’t lose at home to UCF. Granted, the loss came in double overtime, their fourth consecutive overtime game. But still, at the time it was a bad loss that put a damper on the team’s at large bid potential for the NCAA Tournament and also put a damper on a huge individual moment for Scott.
4. Tennessee win
In the moment, this felt like a real turning point victory. Tennessee had made the Sweet 16 in 2019 and even though the Vols ultimately finished around .500 by the end of 2020, at the time no one really knew that they would. Tennessee was ranked #21 and 7-2 coming into the game.
One note that made this a turning point moment - freshman PG Mika Adams-Woods made the first start of his career, being inserted into the lineup over Chris McNeal. Adams-Woods would go on to score a career-high 11 points and was actually one of four Bearcats to score exactly 11 points (Jaevin Cumberland, Keith Williams, Chris Vogt).
3. Keith Williams’ 30 points vs USF
Cincinnati kicked off March with a tough loss at Houston on 3/1. Two days later, they played at USF. Hours before the game, it was revealed that Jarron Cumberland was injured and would not play. With an at-large bid potentially at stake, the pressure was extremely high. For about 30 minutes, Cincinnati did not answer the challenge.
With 12 minutes to go, USF led 56-43, and the Bearcats’ at-large tourney hopes seemed destroyed. But a late surge... led by Keith Williams, saved the season. Williams would finish with a career-high 30 points, on 12-18 shooting. Not only did Williams help save the season, but he gave coaches and fans confidence that in 2020-21, when he is a senior, that he can lead this team.
Now, the question is if Williams will return for the 2020-21 season?
"The best player on the floor ... has been #2 in black."— Cincinnati Men’s Hoops (@GoBearcatsMBB) March 4, 2020
With an assist from @Dan_Hoard, here's what a career-high 30 points in a must-win road game looks like. What a night for Keith Williams. pic.twitter.com/8AlSFWlWDE
2. Houston win
This comeback for the ages set the stage for Cincinnati to be in a position to finish first place in the AAC. Bearcats trailed by 10 at halftime and the deficit was as much as 15 points. But Keith Williams, Jarron Cumberland, and an odd biting incident, helped rally the Bearcats to a victory over #21 Houston.
The Fifth Third Arena crowd was a huge factor in the comeback, as admitted by coaches and players. John Brannen was excited about the future based on how wild this crowd was. Jarron Cumberland scored a game-high 17 points and Houston missed 14 of their last 15 shots.
In an odd moment in the second half, Houston guard Dejon Jarreau was ejected for biting Keith Williams in the leg. Williams had the teeth marks to prove it and you could tell from his reaction that something wasn’t right.
Houston guard DeJon Jarreau was ejected for biting. pic.twitter.com/olWPDulzfV— ESPN (@espn) February 2, 2020
1. Temple tip-in for Scott
A win over a 14-17 team that finished 6-12 and 10th place in the conference, seems like a lame #1 moment. But here’s the thing - this team was down by 13 at the half and looked absolutely lifeless. The significance of the game was obvious - it was senior night, making it the final home games for Jarorn Cumberland and Trevon Scott, a loss would have meant the end of Cincinnati’s at-large tournament hopes, and a shot at the regular season title was on the line.
Like they did against Memphis and Houston, Cincinnati made an amazing comeback and won the game on a last second tip-in by Scott.
Why this is #1, is because it was the final play of the season. Due to the circumstances of the world, this was it. Scott’s tip in was the final shot he will ever take in red and black. The Bearcats ended the season, and the careers of the seniors, ended on as high of a note as they could given the circumstances.
Personal side note - I was at a casino during this game and went to bet UC second half. I messed up the bet though, and rather then take Cincy to win the second half, I mistakenly bet them to win the game. Well, they did, and I cashed in big. So thank you, Trevon Scott.
What was your personal favorite moment(s) of the 2019-20 season? Let us know in the comments section below.