One quote from announcers Dan Shulman and Jay Bilas early in the second half resonated with me tonight:
“An ugly win is far better than a pretty loss”
They couldn’t be more right.
We knew that Cincinnati wasn’t exactly going to light up the scoreboard tonight. Clearly the Bearcats are far more adept at stopping opponents from scoring than scoring themselves. But never could I have possibly expected the kind of offensive ineptitude Cincinnati and Pitt showed us tonight. Neither team shot over 40% from the field or 25% from beyond the three point line. The Panthers even went 12 minutes without making a field goal, relying primarily on free throws to keep the score close during that stretch.
So it was no surprise that the score was just 43-42 in favor of Pitt during UC’s final possession of the game. With just 20 seconds remaining, the Bearcats put the ball in the hands of their best shooter Sean Kilpatrick. As he cut right, Killa drove through the lane and released a high arcing shot off the backboard. It glanced off the rim and into the waiting hands of Titus Rubles, who put it through the hoop to give Cincinnati the last lead of the game.
Look, this wasn’t exactly a shootout. Games with UC involved typically never are. But, as the quote above alludes to, a win’s a win and over a quality opponent at that. Pitt was of course undefeated up until their loss this evening and will likely compete for an ACC title this season. Come NCAA Tournament time, this win will be critical for Cincinnati’s resume. In the immediate term, the Bearcats can at least hang their hats on their defense yet again knowing that the performance against Xavier was just an outlier.
Up next for Cincinnati are the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders on Saturday at 2 pm.