This game had the exact opposite feel from game 1 in which the Bearcats couldn’t stop tripping over their own feet. Just about everything tonight went perfectly and that’s not to say UC got lucky bounces. Cincinnati worked their collective tails off tonight all over the court stealing the ball from Marquette 16 times and allowing just 3 steals from the Golden Eagles. That’s a far cry from the 5 they got three weeks ago. The Bearcats allowed 34 points less than they did in game 1. On the offensive end, Cincinnati turned the ball over just 9 times as opposed to 14 in the first go-around. I think you get the picture.
From and X’s and O’s standpoint, the Bearcats simply played a cleaner game. The guards, particularly Jaquon Parker and Dion Dixon (more on them in a minute), drove the lane with aggression and picked up hard points in the paint. The transition game was also night and day from game 1. Marquette obliterated UC’s full-court offense with a suffocating press. Not tonight. The players didn’t bunch up and made smart passes which led to easy buckets. The Bearcats essentially used the Golden Eagles’ game against them.
Now to the players. It was Senior Night at 5/3rd and the crowd of 11,316 strong sent Dion Dixon and Yancy Gates off with a rousing applause. Sure it was because of a great four-year career in red and black but they put on quite the show tonight. Dixon finished with 21 points and was his automatic self from the stripe making 6 of 7 free throws. His ability to drive the bucket really established Cincinnati’s physicality early. The other graduating senior Yancy Gates only scored 6 points but collected 12 rebounds, the most of any player on either team. His 2nd half helped keep Marquette at bay. Finally, you’d think Jaquon Parker was a third senior being sent off for his play tonight. He tallied a career high 28 points, 7 rebounds, and like Dixon pushed the envelope from the guard position.
To close, let’s get to the best part about this win. Cincinnati is now 21 – 9 and 11 – 6 in the conference. No team with 11 Big East wins has ever been left out of the NCAA Tournament. While critics will always harp on the Bearcats for their creampuff out-of-conference schedule and the losses to Presbyterian and Marshall, UC has 6 wins against Top-50 RPI teams. No other bubble team can say the same. It’s not about making the Big Dance at this point; it’s about seeding. More on that later.
For now let’s just enjoy this phenomenal win and the environment of Senior Night.