The Cincinnati Bearcats fell to the Syracuse Orange on Monday night in a game that may have been closer than anyone looking at a box score would imagine.
The Bearcats (15-6, 5-3 Big East) used a barrage of three-point baskets to take an early 9-point lead on the Orange, but saw that lead evaporate when the Orange found their rhythm and fought their way to a 3-point lead at the break.
The second half quickly became a slugfest as both teams refused to back down. The Bearcats, who found themselves at an obvious disadvantage athletically, used will and determination to fend off nearly every Syracuse run.
Every run, that is, until about the five minute mark in the second half when the Bearcats simply found themselves unable to keep up with a Syracuse team that wears its opponents down with its up-tempo style of play.
In the end, The Orange were too much for the Bearcats to handle as they walked away with a 60-53 win.
After the game, Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin talked about the loss.
“I thought our defense was atrocious,” said Cronin. “They shot layups. I don’t care if we’re playing Syracuse or St. Ann’s where I went to grade school. If guys are getting layups they’re going to make them. They had 36 points in the paint.”
The Bearcats were led in scoring by Cashmere Wright in the loss. Wright, who turned the ball over twice and finished with four assists, scored 17 points in the loss.
It was Yancy Gates, though, who led the team for most of the night. Gates, who played with exceptional effort all night, finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Bearcats.
“I was just trying to draw attention in the middle of the zone,” said Gates when asked about his play. “We felt like if we could get the ball into the middle it would force them to defend both and it would leave the outside more open.”
One of the issues for the Bearcats in the first half was turnovers. Despite hitting five shots from behind the arc in the first half of play, the Bearcats turned it over 9 times, resulting in 12 points for the Orange.
Those twelve points allowed Syracuse to get themselves off the ropes and take a small lead into the break. After the game, Cincinnati point guard Cashmere Wright talked about those giveaways and his team’s experimental offense.
“I think you get the open shots, you just have to make them. We were just trying to figure out what would work,” said Wright. “Sometimes we would try and drive and sometimes we would pass it around the outside. When we tried to drive they just took it from us.”
The Orange were led by Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine in their win. Joseph finished with 17 points and 6 rebounds while Jardine added 13 points and 6 assists while avoiding a single turnover.
After the game, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim talked about his team’s performance.
“That was about as good of a regular season bounce-back win as I can remember at Syracuse,” said Boeheim. “We were just so woeful on Saturday night. So to come back tonight in that kind of atmosphere after they made that kind of start and get win was big for us.”
With the loss, the Bearcats fall to just five and three in Big East play, placing them back in the middle of the pack in the conference standings.
Having finished their toughest stretch all season in the Big East, the Bearcats move forward to a 4-game stretch that features three games away from home and a home contest against DePaul.