The #14 Cincinnati Bearcats fell to 13-2 and 1-1 in the Big East after a late comeback fell just short and resulted in a 53-52 loss at the hands of St John's.
Let's get right to my key numbers and moments from the game.
Stat Of The Game
A lot of bad numbers in the running here as the Bearcats connected on a miserable 11-34 from 2 point range and turned it over 11 times in the 1st half on the way to 16 on the game, but for the me 23-14 rebounding deficit in the first 20 minutes set the tone for the game.
From start to finish a team that has hung its hat on being the most physical team on the floor was pushed around by a squad that came into the game 2nd to last in rebounding margin and last on the defensive glass in the Big East. Another poor shooting night provided plenty of chances for Cincinnati, but they only produced 9 offensive boards on 41 missed shots and were never able to take advantage of what looked like a big mismatch coming in to the game.
The front court rotation of Cheikh Mbodj, David Nyarsuk, Kelvin Gaines, Justin Jackson and Titus Rubles combined for two offensive boards and both of those were from Mbodj who had one in each half.
That all comes down to one thing, and it was painfully obvious watching the game that St John's came in much more hungry for the win. They smacked Cincinnati in the mouth throughout most of the 1st half, and by the time they finally made a run it was not enough.
Wright On Target
About the only positive from the day was the performance of senior point guard Cashmere Wright who tried to put the team on his back throughout the game. He scored 13 of 21 points in the opening half and finished with 23 including a pair of threes late that gave his team a chance to steal one late.
Wright finished the day 9-16 from the floor and 5-10 from long range while also recording a double/double with 10 rebounds. His 3 offensive boards led the team, but having the point guard lead the way on the offensive glass is clearly a sign Mick Cronin's team simply wasn't up to the challenge from the opening tip.
Rubles Breaks Slump
After going 1-21 from three point land to start the season, the lid finally came off the rim for Titus Rubles as he connected on 3-6 from long range including a big one to answer a D'Angelo Harrison prayer at the end of the shot clock with 1:46 left to trim the St John's lead back to 1.
Ultimately he will be remembered in this one for being short from 15 feet with the game on the line, but he was a major factor in keeping UC in the game throughout the 2nd half and was the only scoring threat on the floor outside of Wright over the final 10 minutes of the game.
If he can continue to prove he is capable of connecting on a perimeter jumper it opens up the rest of his game as a threat in the mid range and attacking the rim. Those three makes should boost his confidence from outside, and make things easier on everyone as his man has to think about sagging off in help.
Doesn't Get Easier From Here
Instead of starting Big East play a comfortable 2-0 as they face Notre Dame in a nationally televised game on Monday night they not have to scrap to avoid a 2 game losing streak before heading to Rutgers next Saturday.
If this team is going to continue their quest for a Big East title, they have to figure out a way to bounce back in a hurry against an Irish team that is playing at a very high level on both ends of the floor. It is very quickly gut check time for this team only three game into conference play.