The Cincinnati Bearcats advanced to the finals of the Global Sports Challenge with a 78-70 victory over Iowa State on Friday night behind a career high 32 points for Sean Kilpatrick.
Let's get right to my key points in the victory.
Stat Of The Night
Obviously the career night from Kilpatrick is the lead here, but what stood out the most was his perfect 16-16 showing from the free throw line. The junior star from New York has been struggling from the line to start the season, but he returned to his reliable ways in this one and carried the team to victory from the charity stripe throughout the night.
With his three point shot not totally dialed in (2-6 on the night), Kilpatrick was aggressive attacking the rim and as a result drew a lot of contact. As he has continued to improve his handle there are a lot more opportunities for Kilpatrick to make a defense pay for trying to shut down his deep threat with strong drives to the rim and frequent trips to the line.
Overall it was a great night for the Bearcats from 15 feet as they totally reversed the early season struggles to connect on 23-25 and they never gave the Cyclones the chance to close the gap any tighter than four points during their late surge.
Defense Wins The Day
While there were moments both early and late that it seemed Iowa State was doing whatever they wanted on the offensive end, overall the numbers show Cincinnati did a solid job defensively. The Cyclones only shot 37.3% from the floor and 29.6% from behind the arc.
While it doesn't directly show up in shooting percentages, the pesky hands of Cashmere Wright made the ISU offense uncomfortable throughout. The Cincinnati point guard was credited with 3 steals and got his hands on a number of others that led to easy scores on the other end.
The interior defense also deserves some credit after looking shaky in the first few minutes of the game. The trio of Justin Jackson, Cheikh Mbodj and David Nyarsuk blocked 5 shots and altered many others while pushing the Iowa State offense farther and farther away from the rim as the game progressed.
Tough Night On The Glass
In what has been a huge advantage against inferior opponents, the Bearcats were beat up in the rebounding category in this one. Overall Iowa State finished with a 46-37 advantage, but where they really made noise was on the offensive glass with 19.
For an opponent to grab 19 offensive boards on 24 missed shots is troubling, and so is the fact that on 5 or 6 occasions they were in position to end the possession only to not secure the ball and see it go out of bounds to stay on the Cyclones end. For this team to play at the pace they want this season they have to be strong on the defensive glass, and in the first real test it showed to be a very real concern at the moment.
Oregon managed to pull the upset against tournament host UNLV in the nightcap with an 83-79 victory. While the Ducks didn't have near the pure talent as UNLV they were able to pick up a huge resume victory to advance to the finals.
When it comes to UC and their chances to return home with two wins on the trip, I think Oregon presents a match up that will really benefit Mick Cronin and his team either way it plays out Saturday night.
Dana Altman is an excellent coach and his team runs a lot of quality sets on the offensive end. They looked very good in that aspect tonight and made UNLV look silly on D for most of the night. Cincinnati is going to have to stay disciplined for 35 seconds on that end if they are going to come out with the victory.
The Ducks were led by the freshman duo of Damyean Botson with 19 points and Dominic Atris who added in 11. Pressuring the two guys handling the majority of the time on the ball will be a key in keeping the Ducks out of settling in to their offense and making things tough for the Cincinnati defense.
In the long run I think seeing Oregon and what issues they present as a team that thrives on grinding you out and taking advantage of mistakes is the best situation possible. This sets up to be a very good game for both teams before December. All you can ask for out of a tournament that had 4 likely NCAA Tournament enter the weekend a combined 16-0.