Last night, I was watching the Cincinnati Bearcats take on the Golden Hurricanes of Tulsa literally screaming at my TV. So many things were not going the Bearcats’ way and Tulsa outplayed Cincinnati in every category. Down 11, with less than 5 minutes left to play, I honestly thought Tulsa was going to upset the 14th ranked Cincinnati Bearcats and walk away with a quality win. But, in typical Bearcat fashion, Cincinnati crawled and fought their way to the top and escaped with a 57-55 win over Tulsa. With 30 or so seconds left to play, tied at 55-55, the Golden Hurricanes came down to hopefully score the winning shot. Fortunately, the Bearcats stole the ball with 14 seconds left. With the ball in Troy Caupain’s hands, the senior guard came down and shot the ball and made it with 4 seconds left to play. Tulsa couldn’t make a shot off and it was a sealed win for the Bearcats. Cincinnati still remains un-defeated in conference and riding on a 13 game win streak.
Even though I’m happy with that gut-wrenching, heart attack win, I literally felt bad for Tulsa. If you’re a bearcat fan reading this, you know all too well that Cincinnati couldn’t win in close games in previous seasons. Since Tulsa couldn’t pull that close win against a ranked team, I’m sure their fans were livid last night. Just take a look at this video shot by a Tulsa fan in the student section.
The difference in this game was the final minutes of the game. Cincinnati turned up on defense and Tulsa became lazy on their part. There were a few turnovers that allowed Cincy to score a key 3-pointer by Jacob Evans and a foul that allowed Caupain to score a 3 point play. Tulsa won the rebound margin 38-28, and field goal percentage 40.5% to 35.3%. Another key part that turned to the Bearcats favor was that Tulsa couldn’t make their free throws in the final minutes. I think the hype and the pressure got to the players mind and couldn’t seal the win. Tulsa made 17 free throws out of 24 attempts. Those 7 missed points was the difference. See, free throws matter.
I am definitely proud of my bearcats getting another quality road win but these type of games does not go well with my heart. I was disappointed with the execution by the team and the level of intensity was not there with Tulsa for the full 40 minutes. We did not score well inside the paint, we were not hitting those open 3-point shots and not rebounding the ball. Freshman back-up, Nysier Brooks is out with a hyper-extended knee, so, he’ll be day to day and will be out for a while. His presence was definitely missed last night and back-up junior Quadri Moore did not play his best game. Kyle Washington was getting in early foul trouble so Moore had to fill in the majority of the time. Since Brooks will be out for a bit, I expect Moore and freshman Tre Scott to work hard on their defense and rebounding. In the end, senior guard Caupain led the team to the promise land leading the team with 15 points, followed by Evans and Washington with 10 points each. Gary Clark is still a problem with 9 points of his own and 12 rebounds. As head coach Mick Cronin puts it, “it’s the final score that matters.”
With this quality road win, Cincinnati receives their 7th consecutive 20-win season and only 2 losses under their belt. The last time UC was 20-2 was back in Sean Kilpatrick’s senior year when he and fellow seniors Titus Rubles and Justin Jackson led their 2013 UC squad to an appearance in the NCAA tournament where they lost to Harvard University in the second round and ended with a 27-7 record. The difference between this squad now and the 2013 squad is back then, Kilpatrick was the entire offense. He averaged almost 20 points a game. This squad has multiple shooters and a deep bench that can contribute. Another key difference is that this team can win close games. Close wins this seasons came against a 93-91 win against Marshall, a 55-54 road win against 19th ranked Iowa State, and a 66-64 win against SMU. I feel like the Cincinnati teams from the last couple of seasons would’ve collapsed in that pressure and seniors Troy Caupain and Kevin Johnson are learning from their mistakes from last year and correcting those issues this year.
I can tell that this team has a great, close bond with each other. Cronin has stated that each player pulls for each other and wants each individual to get better. This unique bond the team has and the wins they’re getting makes me believe that this squad could make a deep tournament run. However, the Bearcats can’t repeat that performance like they did last night. Every game should always be played with full on intensity and making their opponent play Cincinnati basketball. The Bearcats have a target on their back. They can’t play just one half of a game. It should always be pedal to the medal and great toughness from every single player for the full 40 minutes.
Up next, the Bearcats have two home games against UConn and UCF. I’m hoping to see a packed Fifth Third Arena to cheer on the Bearcats to get those wins. After that, it will be World War 3 when the Bearcats travel to Texas to take on the SMU Mustangs. In Sean Kilpatricks senior year when the 7th ranked Bearcats traveled to Moody Coliseum, we were upset by the Mustangs. I’m afraid that history might repeat itself when Cincinnati plays against them in a couple weeks. Hope the Bearcats stay refreshed and healthy and hoping that Nysier Brooks gets back to a speedy recovery. But, we have to concentrate with UConn next. UConn is not doing so well and the 1992 Bearcats final four team will be in the house so I’m hoping the Bearcats will put on a show and cream the Huskies this Saturday! Go Bearcats!