After more mid-season roster changes, Brannen decided to debut a new starting lineup. In one of my first articles, I mentioned a small ball lineup with Tari Eason at the 5 and Davenport at the 4, but I never thought Brannen would do it because of his infatuation with Chris Vogt and size in general. However, a five game losing streak will force a coach to try just about anything. With a small and nimble starting lineup consisting of David DeJulius, Keith Williams, Mika Adams-Woods, Jeremiah Davenport, and Tari Eason, the Cincinnati Bearcats got a Q1 win on the road against the SMU Mustangs. The Bearcats closed the game by going on a 20-6 run in the final 5:51. Five Bearcats scored in double figures, but Jeremiah Davenport was the clear player of the game with 18 points and 10 rebounds on 7/13 shooting including 3/8 from deep.
By no means was this a perfect performance. The Bearcats still tallied 17 fouls and committed 15 turnovers, but this is a far cry from the games where they would have 26 fouls and 22 turnovers. For such a young team lacking cohesion, you have to appreciate improvement and progression, no matter how small.
There were still some SMU fast break possessions where UC offered little to no resistance when trying to stop the ball, but the Bearcats were fantastic on the glass and minimized extra possessions for the Mustangs. Cincinnati won the rebounding battle 39-35 and SMU only had 5 offensive rebounds. The Mustangs were held to 23.8% shooting from beyond the arc on their home floor while the Bearcats finally found their stroke, converting 43.5% of their own threes. On 28 made shots, the Bearcats had 22 assists, with DeJulius accounting for 12(!) of them. It was extremely refreshing to see the Bearcats look like a cohesive unit.
Tari Eason hit clutch free throws in the final minute, showing veteran-level composure as a freshman, and Zach Harvey continues to make strides in his development with 13 points off the bench. And in his first game action of the season, Mason Madsen converted his lone shot attempt, a three from the top of the arc.
The biggest concern from this game would have to be the lack of production from the center position with both Chris Vogt and Mamoudou Diarra combining for 0 points, 3 rebounds, and 4 fouls. That is unacceptable from two players with so much experience. Vogt has been unable to adapt his game to defenses that are prepared for him and lacks confidence as a result.
Look, I still have my concerns about this team but they won a game most of us thought they would lose. On to Wichita State!