The Bearcats won today in a manner that had earned them so many victories earlier in the season against tough competition; playing suffocating defense and producing enough offense to put them over the top. The Bearcats are never lacking on the defensive end. Mick Cronin has built a team that thrives when they’re scratching and clawing in the mud. Cincinnati can never be called a team that plays soft defense, even in their losses over the past couple of weeks. They held Providence to 54 (who average 68 points per game), Pitt to 62 (average 69), Georgetown to 62 (average 65), and Notre Dame to 62 points (average 71).
But the issue in each of those losses was that UC struggled to even hit 50 on the scoreboard and embarrassingly finished with just 41 points against the Fighting Irish. But today they actually found their offense in the second half despite going into halftime trailing by 5 points. You can probably thank Sean Kilpatrick and interestingly enough Jermaine Sanders for that burst in the final 20 minutes. In addition Cashmere Wright, despite shooting just 2 of 14 from the field, did notch double-digit points again for the fourth time in the last five games.
The macro problems (not hitting free throws, failing to shoot well in general) are still haunting this team. But the performance out of Kilpatrick and the fact that Cash finally started making shots and getting to the free throw line were encouraging. If Cincinnati expects to beat Louisville on Monday and close the regular season strong they’ll need the latter, their leader at point guard, to continue his upward trend back to the Cashmere Wright we know and love.
Overall the team played well today and showed signs that they are collectively pulling themselves out of this funk. Can they put the pieces together and get back to the winning ways they experienced in the first half of the year? Boy I hope so.