Cincinnati point guard Cashmere Wright overcame a lackluster second-half performance and mustered up the energy for one last shot – a 10-fadeway jump shot over Moussa Gueye as time expired that would lift the Bearcats to a win.
The Bearcats overwhelmed the Tide on defense in the first half, but struggled to get anything of their own going on offense as they allowed Alabama to stay close and take the lead late in the second half.
The Bearcats never waivered, matching the Alabama basket-for-basket down the stretch en route to a 58-56 victory over the Crimson Tide.
“Alabama is certainly better than advertised,” said Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin after his team’s win. “We see a lot of great guards in the Big East, but the three we saw tonight are as good as anyone we’ll face all year. So I’m obviously happy to get the win.”
Senior point guard Cashmere Wright had what may have been his worst game to date for the Bearcats, struggling to get anything going on offense.
But as he has done time and time again for the Bearcats throughout his career, Wright stepped up when it mattered the most.
As the clock reached all zeros, Wright drove toward the baseline, stopped, and launched a fade away jump shot over Alabama’s 7-foot center Moussa Gueye that was right on target as the buzzer sounded.
“Before we went I knew I was going left,” said Wright of the team’s final play. “I just picked out a spot that I wanted to take the shot from and I got there.”
“They grabbed me on the sideline before I even saw the shot go in. I couldn’t tell but they all grabbed me so I just thought to myself that I guess I made the shot.”
“When he let go of the ball I was just thinking of Desean Butler and West Virginia,” said Cronin. “I thought one of these has to go the Bearcats’ way eventually.”
Despite their inability to get anything going on the offensive end, the Bearcats’ defense never waivered down the stretch. Despite going four minutes without a basket, the defense made sure the Bearcats never trailed by more than two.
The Bearcats defense was so impressive, in fact, that Alabama head coach Anthony Grant referred to them as the best defense in the country – something that means a great deal to a team that works so hard.
“It means a lot,” said senior JaQuon Parker. “We work so hard on defense every day. Guarding our own teammates in practice is hard enough. It makes us that much better.”
But junior guard Sean Kilpatrick says the team isn’t even close to their peak.
“I think it’s scary,” said Kilpatrick. “It feels good to get a compliment like that, but at the same time we aren’t even close to where want to be as a team. I can’t even imagine how good this team can be.”