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Cincinnati Suffers First Loss 55-54

In a big night for Cincinnati athletics, the New Mexico Lobos entered 5/3 Arena to take on the No. 8 Bearcats in front of 10,627 fans. The Steve Alford led Lobos arrive in Cincinnati just on the cusp of the top 25 after losing to the surprisingly deadly South Dakota State Jackrabbits.

It took just over three minutes, but the first basket came on the usual Sean Kilpatrick three pointer. From there, Cashmere Wright and Sean Kilpatrick proceeded to score the first 12 Bearcats’ points, all from three point range.

For a while it looked like the Bearcats might start to pull away, but the run ended as Cashmere Wright picked up his second foul early & sat the final 11 minutes of the half.

New Mexico’s big man Alex Kirk (7’, 280) was perfect from the field and lead New Mexico with 6 points at half.

Cincinnati took a 26-22 lead into the half, despite shooting 25% from the field. The awful field goal shooting can be attributed to a lot of missed shots down low. Cincinnati was 5-26 (19%) from 2pt range, while hitting just as many threes in only 13 attempts. Kilpatrick lead the team with 8 points at half, while Parker and Wright also added 6.

The second half was full of remarkable effort and hustle from both teams, a la the Cincinnati vs. Florida State game in March. Every time it looked like Cincinnati might pull away with a big three, New Mexico responded with a huge basket. Kendall Williams kept silencing the crowd with four threes and 16 points.

Not only did the Lobos have to respond to the loud crowd from huge Cincinnati shots, but also an occasional eruption when the Belk Bowl score came up on the jumbo-tron. Nothing seemed to phase New Mexico as they were never down by more four in the second half.

Alex Kirk’s huge first half continued into the second half where he finished with 15 points on 6-8 shooting and 7 rebounds. The seven footer played 29 minutes and only committed one foul while playing his heart out on both ends of the floor. Mick Cronin said, “Their physicality bothered us”, and that would definitely seem true as Cincinnati only shot 9-38 from 2 point range and shot only four free throws all game.

Seeing a big man like Kirk could end up preparing the Bearcats well for Big East play, Sean Kilpatrick said, “That’s just something we’re not used to, rotating to the big man.”

Cincinnati had many chances to pull away and get the crowd even more into it, but couldn’t come up with clutch defensive stops and had key turnovers on the break leading to the 55-54 loss. Alex Kirk blocked Sean Kilpatrick’s last second attempt to go in, and Cheikh Mbodj’s put-back was just a split second too late.

There was a wide array of issues displayed by the Bearcats tonight, and one of the biggest was the combined 10-36 shooting of Jaquon Parker and Sean Kilpatrick. Despite shooting great from 3, the duo had huge issues finishing inside the arc.

Cronin said after the game, “Our inside finishing is beyond soft.”, which is verified by only having nine 2 point field goals to eleven 3 point field goals. Cashmere Wright only played 27 minutes because of early foul trouble, but had an efficient 12 points on 4-6 shooting.

Justin Jackson and Titus Rubles were basically non-factors, as they combined for 1-12 from the field and never really got into a groove. Redshirt freshman Shaquille Thomas gave the Bearcats a solid 18 minutes off the bench, surprisingly playing more than Rubles in a big game and scoring 5 points with 2 steals.

“Things have been too easy for us, we were going to get taught our lesson sooner or later,” said Coach Cronin after the game.

Cincinnati fans can rest easy that Coach will have them ready on Monday, and should be happy with a 12-1 non-conference schedule that won’t have any “bad losses” show up on that screen on Selection Sunday.

Cincinnati has a great chance to redeem themselves at noon on Monday 12/31, vs. the Panthers of Pittsburgh. Both teams are 12-1 and Pittsburgh has been off since the 23rd.

  • I agree this was not a bad loss. This was a very good team and I think UC will benefit from this loss. It will make them stronger going into Big East Play knowing their weaknesses. It wasn't a blowout and it wasn't UC's best played game.

  • One major thing I took away from this game was that we rely far too heavily on the three at times. We shot it pretty well, but the bigger problem is that you don't draw fouls shooting threes all day. That hurt us at the end. We were really killed when they were able to foul us at the end.

    On top of that Kilpatrick has to realize when he's having an off night and give someone else some shots. 15 points on 22 shots is not good for the team. This is the third time in four games that Kilpatrick has more shots than points. When he's on he's very good, but it just seems that he is going to take the same amount of shots whether he's making them or not and it hurts us when he's off.

  • They attacked the rim a ton last night, but didn't finish strong and left a ton of easy points on the board. Getting 38 shots from inside the arc is a good number, but they made most of those attempts tougher than they should be by trying to avoid contact and altering easy attempts into nearly impossible to make ones. They played soft once they got around the rim, and it turned what should have been a comfortable win into a loss...

    Co-Owner and Senior Basketball Writer Follow me on Twitter @chbrendel

  • Agreed Chad. There were multiple instances of put back attempts that were not attempted with any strength or confidence. I believe Jackson hit the underside of the rim on two of his point blank shot attempts. Corralling all those offensive rebounds isn't going to do much good if they can't convert. In previous games I questioned the hands of our interior players to receive passes but even when they had control of the ball they didn't show any patience or toughness in going back up at the rim.

    I think it's something they can improve on but a few times last night I found myself missing Gates down low...

  • If we make a few inside shots early it's an entirely different game. Too much effort not to come away with some points in the paint.

    Let's face it, they are not going to win them all and I'd rather lose this one than lose a conference game. I hate losing anytime, anywhere but it's not a loss that is going to hurt us too bad.

  • Brett, what you've described has been my chief concern coming into the season: An inability of our inside players to play strong inside, which includes defending, positioning, grabbing balls, shooting and finishing. Each player, of course, has to be evaluated individually, but collectively, that's what it comes down to. You add that to a lack of contribution from the soph class players (incl JD's absence) and you've got real problems. Last nite's game looked more like a continuation to me than an aberration. We've looked pretty ugly in the games I've seen, especially in half court execution.

    I honestly haven't been on the bb side, being so involved with fb and realignment issues on the fb board, and there are games I haven't seen. But it's clear our big 3 need help offensively, and I hope Mick comes up with an answer, because I don't see it yet.

    This post was edited by swingtime 16 months ago

  • Pretty funny someone mentioned missing Gates as I was thinking that same thing last night. He had his faults, but he was a pretty good finisher around the rim. It seems like we have missed like a thousand shots right around the rim the last few games. Not sure why we are so afraid of contact. It seems like we are trying to throw the ball up there so fast instead of composing themselves and going up strong. It's very frustrating to watch.

  • Well, my main issue is finishing inside. The big men have done a very good job protecting the rim and the team still has a gaudy rebounding margin and last night outrebounded a bigger team but it didn't lead to any advantage in points. Cheikh has been a lot more active lately and he did grab 10 boards last night and had 2 of the team's only put back hoops and has done a better job of not picking up cheap fouls. He barely played in Las Vegas due to foul trouble.

    There is a lot of 1 on 1 take your man off the dribble or shoot a 3 in the half court offense right now and I want more post passes not necessarily expecting a score but to kick it back out and collapse the defense a tad, give a new wrinkle.

    One thing I do know is that in the past two years Mick and the coaching staff have done a masterful job of making in-season adjustments so I think we'll see some improvement but just have to wait and see when it happens.

  • My main problem with this team has been they always act like they are 10x better than the competition. This is fine against the bad teams which we have seen but shows itself greatly against good competition when they are not.

    They need a focus and attitude adjustment to show them that if they don't play 100% their game at all times, they can be beat any given night.

    UC LCoB '12 - @RyanTJBauer

  • You're right, I covered alot more issues than you raised. :) But the inability to finish is also related to strength, having good hands, eye/hand coordination, touch and other things that make them not very effective inside players. I'll grant you they've defended the rim, but defensive positioning still needs to improve, and altho Cheikh has vastly improved, whether he can guard without getting into foul trouble vs BE teams is a question. Offensive rebounding has been good, partly because we miss so many shots. I've been more concerned with defensive rebounding vs BE teams, but we'll see.

    Mick needed to recruit an effective power player this yr with Gates leaving; we all knew that. Instead what he got in Rubles is a tweener who plays more like a small forward who is athletic and has good ball skills but can't shoot. Not the answer to this point.

  • Watching the Lville and Kentucky game, if we want to compete on the big stage and have a shot at Atlanta this offense needs to change and change now. We don't have a dominant offensive player and we dont' have break you down penetrators.

    - Player movement needs to increase and away from the ball screans need to actually take place.
    - SK has great movement away from the ball and in this offense we have taken that away from him. See first play after halftime against X. SK is not a dominant 1 on 1 player, he is phenomal when he has a chance to come of screans and with his momentum moving.
    - Our 4 men (Titus and JJ) have very quick feet, are good passers and creative near the basket. They need to be catching the ball 10 feet and in where they can beat their men or have the ability to pass out. When you have the ball in the middle or close to the basket it is very hard for the permiter D to keep track of ball and man so permiter guys can get open.
    -Our bigs have decent hands and feet. They should be setting ball screens and off the ball screens which means their man has to help. When their man helps, that is when they can post with good position and it is an easy move to score. Right now we ask our bigs to just stand near the block with no movement. This is why they can't get any good position or don't score.
    -Cash, Parker and SK (even the back ups) should be looking to back cut, run off screens in order to catch the ball with a step on their man already. Additionally, when you have this much movement going on it is very hard for the other defenders to help the on ball defender so if one of those guys can take their man one on one their will be little help waiting.

    Watch how little the ball makes it inside the 3 pt line or below the foul line. How little our post men are in position to post up. We take so many tough shots early in the shot clock and yet we make a handful of them. We can get those shots anytime, we should be trying to get easier shots in the beginning and then we can bomb away if nothing works. At the very least we actually make the other team use energy to try and to defend, right now the teams with equivalent talent and size to us spend little energy guarding us because they know we will just stand 4 guys on the perimeter and our post player will just stand their on the block.

    Like I said in another post, this team is too talented to not be able to score at least 70 points every game. Our defense and energy is phenominal...would just like to see some resemblence of offense to go with it.

    Sorry to keep repeating what everybody already knows.

  • Near the end of the game we ran a play where Titus got the ball on the low block. As good a passer as he is I would love to see him start and see what he could do there. We already know what JJ can do off the bench..Mix it up a little ??

  • THis writer makes some very good points. Bobby Knight always preached that you must start your offense
    from the inside and once you get that established your perimiter players should have an easier time scoring.
    Whether you perimiter players like to slash or shoot from the outside it is so much easier once you
    have established an inside game. While we were able to slash Rubles, (who mostly bricked his shots),
    and Kilpatrick, it would make a big difference if teams had to pay more respect towards either
    our 4 or 5 player.)
    I know Mick likes these two players in the game for defensive and rebounding purposes yet we are getting zero
    offense from either and that puts allot of pressure on the other three. Jackson remains a walking turnover
    every time he touches the ball regardless of what shows up in the stats. The offense comes to a halt due
    to his poor court vision and lack of bball instinct.

    My opinion is you play Rubles and Thomas more at the 4 , I don't think you lose much defensively
    and they both posess allot more potential if this team is to go anywhere.

  • Yes we dont have a Cooley, Bennett, plumlee or Noel. JJ is not CJ Leslie.

    But our 4 and 5 men can score some they just need the proper offense and be put in the position to use what they have. I get frustrated with JJ too but I know he can score. I thought maybe he could handle the transition to the wing but he can't. He needs to get the ball 8 foot in. I also feel Titus will much more effective catching the ball 15 feet and in and posting some.

    i personally think with the shooters we have on the wings you could run theboffense through the high post with JJ and Titus. They are always quicker than their defender or more athletic. If someone collapses that is an easy kick out for a 3 or jumper. If the big helps it is an easy lob pass.

    Both JJ and Titus i think are keys to our offense improving. I just hope Mick is willing to scrap the dribble drive offense because we are not Kentucky or Memphis.

    This post was edited by SchroedUC 16 months ago

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