Cincinnati 65, Texas 59: Bearcats Survive Late Scare, Advance to Round of 32


The Bearcats made a statement in their opening round game against the Texas Longhorns today. Powered by a confusing press and suffocating man-to-man defense, UC jumped out to a 17 – 2 lead. The Bearcats held Texas scoreless for over 10 minutes in the first half. The Longhorns’ youth was showing through and Cincinnati jumped on that weakness right away. On the offensive end Yancy Gates established himself early as expected but the performance of Cheikh Mbodj and Jermaine Sanders was a pleasant surprise. Justin Jackson had some foul trouble early and the pair stepped in without missing a beat. Sanders himself actually only recorded 10 total minutes of playing time before this game. In the 1st half alone he had tallied 11. Cincinnati was up 31 – 17 at halftime and looked to be in control.

But the 2nd half is where the Bearcats nearly gave the game away. For whatever reason, Mick Cronin opened up the final 20 minutes with a zone defense. This was baffling considering the man-to-man was the scheme most confusing the young Texas guards. The move seemed even more idiotic as the Longhorns started hitting jumpers from all over the court. A 19-point lead with about 17 minutes left to play was reduced to 3-points 10 minutes later. By that time Mick had brought back the M2M, press, and double teams but it was too little too late. The Longhorns had finally found their stroke from beyond the arc. With just under 4 minutes left, Texas tied the game at 52 with a Jonathan Holmes layup. Cincinnati would not allow them to lead, however, as the vets on this team started to flex their muscle.

Yancy Gates made a tip-in near the basket to break the 52-52 tie. Moments later, Cashmere Wright was for some reason left unguarded and drove the lane with aggression for a quick lay up. A quick defensive stop and a few passes found Gates in the corner about 20 feet away from the basket. With his heels on the three-point line he nailed a floater. Rick Barnes of Texas wisely called a timeout and came out in the next UC possession with a full-court press. Cincinnati attacked it perfectly and Jaquon Parker made a wide-open lay up. All of a sudden the Bearcats were back up by 8 and it was down to free throws to ice the game. Easier said than done since UC is the worst free throw shooting team in the entire NCAA Tournament. But Dixon and Cash came through in the clutch, burying 5 of 6 from the stripe and finishing off Texas for good.

That was a roller coaster game for Cincinnati that saw them play so perfectly in the first half and as close to imperfect defensively as we’ve seen all year in the second half. But as the old saying goes, a win is a win no matter how you get it. The Bearcats will face the winner of #3 Florida State and #14 St. Bonaventure in the round of 32 on Sunday. FSU is a big, physical squad hailing from the ACC. They the 12th ranked team in the nation and recently knocked off the North Carolina Tar Heels to win the ACC. St. Bonaventure is equally hot having beaten Xavier in the A-10 finals to win the conference championship and an NCAA bid. Both are very good teams but it’s obvious that I’d rather play the Bonnies than the Seminoles. Some brackets have Florida State going as far as the final four they are that good. The game is being played at 3 pm EST so tune in to see who Cincinnati will face on Sunday.