Still, the Bearcats’ performance on Monday night in their final exhibition game against the Bellarmine Knights left the veteran duo with plenty of reasons to be excited with their regular season opener just around the corner.
“Even after the first game I was skeptical, and I knew we needed to get better,” said Cashmere Wright after the game. “After tonight I’m seeing us take so many steps. We aren’t ready for the season to start yet, but we will be come Sunday.”
Jaquon Parker led the team in scoring with 13 points and, in all, five Bearcats finished in double figures as the team rolled to an 86-51 win.
The game got off to a much quicker start this time around for the Bearcats, whose length proved to be a nightmare for the Knights from the start. Tough defense led to fast breaks, which led to an early Bearcat lead.
On the other end, the three-headed monster of Wright, Kilpatrick, and Parker were nearly unstoppable, scoring 32 of the team’s first 34 points as the Bearcats pulled away early.
Newcomer Titus Rubles continued to impress as well.
Rubles deadly combination of size, strength, and speed continued to cause fits for opponents, especially when his shot is falling. He scored 13 points, and his 6 rebounds brought his total to 14 through the first two exhibition games.
“I learned to rebound in high school,” said Rubles when asked about his ability to crash the glass from the wing. “In high school I wasn’t able to score so much so I decided I needed to get some rebounds so I can add some points. Since then I’ve just had an eye for the ball.”
The Knights started off shooting well, but as the first half drew to a close, baskets became difficult to come by as a long, athletic Bearcat defense continued to clamp down.
As the second half got underway, things would only get worse for an undersized Bellarmine squad.
“You’ve got to smother teams with defense,” said Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin after the game. There are still things we need to work on, we don’t box out well, but I was very pleased with our effort on that end of the floor.”
It took all of six minutes and 38 seconds for the Knights to get their first basket coming out of the break, while the Bearcats’ lead quickly ballooned to 40 following a 19-0 run to begin the half.
“We always treat the start of each half like it’s zero-to-zero,” said Wright after the game when asked about the team’s added intensity in the second half. “When the season starts we’re going to be playing tougher teams. So coach tells us to look at every half like it’s still zero-to-zero.”
The Bearcats begin their regular season slate on Sunday when they welcome Tennessee-Martin to Fifth Third Arena.
“If we commit to toughness and to doing the little things, we can have a very special season with this group,” said Cronin. There’s still a lot to work on, but I was very pleased with our effort. I’m happy with where we are, but we aren’t finished improving.”
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