By the look of the first half, it appeared we were in store for a repeat of the Jimmy V Classic in which Cincinnati and Pitt combined for just 87 total points. Today, the Bearcats and Blue Raiders were tied at 21 at halftime. I’m not sure what Mick Cronin
told screamed at his team in the locker room but what ever it was it worked. Cincinnati scored 12 of the half’s first 16 points and continued the offensive onslaught from there. A team known for its defense, Middle Tennessee State didn’t know what hit them. The Bearcats poured on 48 points in the second half en route to a 69-48 victory.
The stars for Cincinnati were their senior leaders Sean Kilpatrick and Justin Jackson. He scored 23 points, tying his season high, shot 50% from the field, and made four threes. It was the kind of performance we expect out of the UC sharp shooter. Then there was Justin Jackson, who was arguably the game’s most important player today. He had a double-double (16 points, 12 rebounds) and was a huge factor in shutting down Middle Tennessee State’s dangerous big men Shawn Jones and Neiko Hunter. If these two can continue to perform at this level, Cincinnati should be in good shape heading into the NCAA Tournament in a few months.
Speaking of that, the Bearcats’ win today will only bolster their resume. The Blue Raiders were a NCAA Tournament team last season and will likely be selected this upcoming March. In our immediate future, after the Pitt win and the victory today, it appears this team has regained their focus and swagger. That will be critical as they wind down their non-conference schedule with Chicago State and Nebraska this week in anticipation of their first AAC game against SMU on January 1st.