Despite being built to score points in bunches, overwhelm teams in transition, and create havoc for opposing teams on both sides of the ball Cincinnati has been stymied of late. The culprit has been the interior game where the Bearcats have been dominated recently on both sides of the court. Last Saturday it cost them a game and their status as an undefeated team. Today it nearly cost them again. On offense the Panthers smothered the Bearcats’ big men in the paint who refused to go up strong under the basket to at the very least draw a foul. On defense, missed assignments led to a number of easy Pitt buckets that kept the Panthers on top.
But in the second half, like they had all season, Cincinnati finally woke up and especially on the defensive side of the court. The Bearcats turned up the press and began forcing turnovers. Most importantly they tightened up in the paint. Pittsburgh, who led the entire first half despite not hitting a single three and relying only on shots close to the bucket, finally found itself without a semblance of rhythm on offense. As the Bearcats picked it up on defense, UC’s interior offensive game began to assert itself as well behind namely David Nyarsuk. Over a 7 minute span late in the 2nd half, Nyarsuk had perhaps his best performance of his young career at Cincinnati. The UC center gobbled up 3 offensive boards and most importantly turned those into immediate points, including a powerful dunk to put up the Bearcats by 8 and stamping his impressive run.
It goes without saying that if Cincinnati can get performances like these from Nyarsuk, Jackson, and Mbodj consistently for the rest of the season the Bearcats will be alright on offense. Really Mick Cronin isn’t asking a whole lot from them; just pick up missed shots and turn those into easy points in the paint. That’s all Nyarsuk did during that 7 minute span today and it was the key to putting UC ahead for good.