#5: SEAN KILPATRICK DUNKS?!
The first top basketball moment from the season comes in at #5 in our countdown.
You could make the argument that this was two incredible plays in one because, well, that’s what it was. The Bearcats were ranked 7th, marking the second time under Mick Cronin that they had risen so high in the polls. They were riding a 14-game winning streak and sitting atop the AAC without having lost a conference game yet that season. So when they hosted the 22nd ranked UConn Huskies in early February, there was more than just a single win on the line.
As with most Cincinnati-Connecticut games, it was a back and forth affair. Both teams exchanged punches early with neither establishing a foothold. But the Huskies had an edge early behind Amida Brimah, Ryan Boatright, and Niels Giffey despite Shabazz Napier being shutdown by Ge’Lawn Guyn. The Bearcats simply couldn’t get into the consistent rhythm to surge ahead. Thus they fell behind by 5 at halftime.
That trend carried over to the second half with Cincinnati throwing everything they had at the Huskies only to see them absorb the blows, recover, and counterattack. But then the Bearcats’ senior leaders made the play of the day and perhaps the entire season.
With just under ten minutes to go in the game, Cincinnati found itself down 5 with UConn poised to score again and extend their lead. Justin Jackson put a stop to that. As Lasan Kromah drove the lane and put up a shot that he hoped to bounce high off the glass, the UC power forward timed it perfectly (of course) and swatted it away in a manner all his own. But the ball didn’t jettison into the stands as it normally did. Instead it popped out to the key where Titus Rubles pushed it further up-court just in front of Sean Kilpatrick who snagged it, raced towards the hoop, and slammed it home quite literally blowing the roof off of Fifth Third Arena.
First of all, who knew Sean Kilpatrick could dunk the ball? He probably has before. Heck, a guy with his athleticism has likely made a few rims wail in agony over the course of his career. But the last time Kilpatrick did so in a UC uniform slips my memory. Secondly, this was basically the definition of a momentum swinging play. Following the dunk, which cut Cincinnati’s deficit to 3, the Bearcats embarked on a 9-2 run over the next five minutes that gave them a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
UC wound up beating UConn that day 63-58 and I think we can point to the Justin Jackson block and Sean Kilpatrick dunk for that. The Bearcats’ seniors led the way again!