Defense has been this team’s M.O. all season long and the same narrative played out again tonight. Cincinnati allowed just 51 points to a Knights team that was averaging almost 75. Additionally, UCF could do next to nothing in their half-court offense due to UC’s suffocating defense. The Knights shot just 38.5% from the floor and 27.8% from beyond the arc. Plus the Bearcats did a nice job with their press, forcing 14 Central Florida turnovers and actually generating points of of them (20+) last night. Finally, despite being the best team in the AAC on the glass, Cincinnati held them to 9 rebounds under their season average. A primary reason for that was UC’s all-everything forward Justin Jackson.
He was everywhere last night and played one of his most inspired games of the season. Jackson seemed to feed off the energy from the 10,242 fans at Fifth Third Arena to generate a season high 7 blocks on the evening. He was instrumental in shutting down Central Florida’s bigs and not giving them any freedom underneath the basket. Jackson also did a nice job of staying on the floor. He wound up with 4 fouls on the night but only got in any real danger very late in both halves. So UCF didn’t have an opportunity to exert their advantage down low with him on the bench, as has been the issue for Cincinnati in recent games.
As a whole, that was definitely one of the most complete games of the season from the Bearcats. They were up by just 3 at halftime but really just played sloppy in the final 2 minutes which allowed UCF to make it close. Cincinnati tightened up in the second half to put Central Florida away for good. That’s just what good teams do; make the appropriate halftime adjustments, stay focused, and exert their dominance without taking their foot off the pedal. If the Bearcats continue to play like they did last night there’s no telling how high this team will fly.
Cincinnati takes on the Temple in their final regular season matchup with the Owls on Sunday at 4 pm as they aim to move to 8-0 in the conference and win their 12th straight game.