That was a defining win that went a long way in securing an NCAA Tournament bid for the Bearcats. I have to give a lot of love to Cashmere Wright, Yancy Gates, and Justin Jackson. Cash was white hot from three, draining a career high six from beyond the arc and tallied 22 points. Gates was dominant inside making his counterpart Gorgui Dieng uncomfortable all night long. The Louisville big man simply couldn’t match-up physically, Gates knew this, and exerted his advantage each and every time the opportunity presented itself. And then there’s Justin Jackson. Oh yes, let’s get to Justin Jackson. In his first shift on the court, JJ picked up two quick fouls. It looked like it would be a short night from him as Mick quickly yanked him to the bench. Jackson went on a tear from that point on gathering 7 rebounds and provided the energy that Cincinnati was looking for from someone not named Yancy Gates.
Speaking of the inside game, the Bearcats exerted their advantage when they finally played better in that area in the 2nd half. The beginning of the game went like this; UC would nail a three, Louisville would push the ball up-court, drive inside for a quick two, then Cincinnati would try to respond with a three. It worked well in the 1st half but that pace couldn’t be sustained. By halftime, UC had scored 8 three pointers and just 3 from inside the arc, all of which were from Gates. Once the Bearcats established balance they were able to score on the Cardinals in a variety of ways. But this improvement inside also worked on the defensive side. Louisville is just 11th in the Big East from three-point land and was making their money all game long by driving the lane and owning the boards. When Cincinnati crashed Peyton Siva and company on the dribble-drive and boxed out better in the paint, the Cardinals offense sputtered.
Finally, if you have been following me on Twitter you know I was amped to hear power forward prospect Chris Obekpa was in attendance. A tip of the cap goes to the Cincinnati fans, 13,176 of which packed 5/3rd tonight. They were loud all game, wore black, and probably more than impressed Obekpa in his official visit. The win was nice but the environment was phenomenal. Hopefully this will get a signature from Chris to join the Bearcats in the 2012 class.
Cincinnati is now 20 – 8 overall and 10 – 5 in the Big East with important wins over ranked teams Pittsburgh, Georgetown, UConn, and now Louisville. The NCAA Tourney resume has improved greatly in the last few games. I dare say, things are looking really, really good right now for UC to have their name called on Selection Sunday. But losing the final three games would erase what they have done in the previous three. We can celebrate tonight but tomorrow we will prepare for South Florida.
Go Bearcats. Beat the Bulls.