Two Cents & Sense: Thoughts on UC vs #19 Iowa State


(Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports)

The Bearcats finally got one.

Cincinnati travelled to Ames, Iowa on Thursday night for a showdown against a Top 20 team in what is typically called one of the toughest places to win in America. The red and black did what they do best and turned the game into a rock fight, beating the Cyclones in overtime, snapping Iowa State’s 37-game non-conference winning streak at Hilton, and picking up their biggest regular season win in nearly three years. Here’s what happened:


  • We finally freakin’ did it. I had forgotten what it was like to win a close game, especially on the road, and especially against a ranked team. It feels phenomenal.
  • The Bearcats were impossibly tough from tip to buzzer and it paid off. Every time Iowa State built a lead, UC punched back harder. When it seemed like the Cyclones were gonna put the game away before the half, an unexpected scoring outburst gave UC a lead (!!!) at halftime. When it seemed like the game was over near the end of regulation, the Bearcats made some plays and Gary Clark stuck a field goal to even it. When it seemed like Iowa State had it won in OT, Big Game Jake played beyond his years, drew a foul, and stuck two free throws to take the lead with 20 seconds remaining. Most importantly, the defense tightened up on the ensuing possession and the Cyclones couldn’t get a good look at a game winner. I had resigned myself to defeat after a well-played game by the ‘Cats, but they made just enough plays to pull it off.
  • The ramifications of this win in March will be huge. Iowa State hasn’t done much yet, so they aren’t even a Top 100 RPI team, but they’ll be Top 50 (if not Top 25) by season’s end. Winning this game on the road against a team that’s gonna get tons of shots against ranked Big 12 teams is massive. We have a marquee win, folks. We don’t have many shots with this schedule, so this win was vital.
  • Kevin Johnson was phenomenal. Maybe his best game as a Bearcat. It doesn’t really show up in the box score (because somehow KJ kept ending up with the ball at the end of the shot clock where he was forced to shoot a bad shot), but he was great. He shot 4-for-10 (but 3-for-5 inside the arc) and had four rebounds, an assist, a steal, and zero turnovers. The Bearcats do not win this game without KJ’s play. His baseline drive at the end of the game may have been the most important offensive play of the season.

(Video via ESPN/Bearcats TV, GIF by OhVarsity)

  • Gary Clark is getting his groove back. He finished 5-for-8 for 11 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, and three blocks––one of which was the most manly thing I’ve seen in my life. Washington didn’t have a stellar game, but I think Thursday night was our first glimpse of what it could look like if we can get Gary and Kyle synced up and firing. They were brilliant at times.

(Video via ESPN/Bearcats TV, GIF by OhVarsity)

  • Big Game Jake showed up in the nick of time. Just when it seemed like the narrative would be that Evans had his worst game on the season’s biggest stage, he stepped in with a huge offensive possession to draw a foul and sink two extremely clutch free throws.
  • Four starters finished in double figures, and the fifth is your preseason conference player of the year. I’ll take that.
  • Nysier Brooks had a play that was brilliant, where he ripped a rebound away from two kids before turning for a layup. He won’t get tons of minutes this year, but I’ve been beyond impressed with how he’s looked in brief glimpses this season.

(Video via ESPN/Bearcats TV, GIF by OhVarsity)

  • Troy Caupain hit 1,000 career points. He’s the 50th Bearcat to do so. During the game, he jumped past David Kennedy (1978–81) and into 49th on the UC career list. The most notable player on the immediate horizon is Field Williams (2001–04) in 47th place with 1,030. I’ll do my best to follow this as the season goes on, because Troy is going to start passing some UC great here in a few weeks.
  • My optimism plays much better following a win. Naz Mitrou-Long’s three-pointers missed at the end of regulation and again at the end of overtime. Those two very brief moments could’ve changed the narrative of the whole game. The Bearcats played pretty darn well (at least well enough to win), and I would’ve said that had the shot gone in. Kevin Johnson was huge for the Bearcats, and I would’ve said that had the shot gone in. This team is gonna be just fine in the long run, and I would’ve said that had the shot gone in. We absolutely can beat Butler next week, and I would’ve said that had the shot gone in. However, the shot didn’t go in, so everyone will be much more receptive to me saying all of this. I like having some partners in optimism.
  • They controlled the pace, really well. Iowa State infamously hung 130 a couple weeks ago on The Citadel, a team notorious for pushing the pace as much as possible. In that game, the Cyclones had 52 buckets on 86 attempts. On Thursday, they had just 22 on 60 attempts. College Basketball Reference tracks Pace — an estimate of possessions per 40 minutes. Against The Citadel, the pace was 91.6. On Thursday against Cincinnati, the pace was just 55.5 — easily Iowa State’s lowest of the season. In their second-lowest game, they picked up their only other loss. That’s how you beat this team. The Bearcats did it to perfection.
  • Iowa State’s AD probably wishes he hadn’t said Big 12 expansion would “dilute” the conference before scoring 54 points in a home loss to an AAC team.
  • Again, WE WON!



  • Guys, I’m kinda starting to worry about Troy Caupain. I’m not hitting the panic button yet (he didn’t really click until just before Christmas last year), but my finger is hovering over the button. In the early going, I thought the Rhode Island game would be the challenge that got him in the groove. When that didn’t work, I thought a couple cupcake home games would be the break that allowed him to let loose and get back to himself. When that didn’t work, I thought the hostile road environment of Iowa State would snap him back to form. He was 2-for-11 last night, and was noticeably struggling to get anything going. He’s much better than this, so I don’t think these issues will continue, but I think I have to start worrying just a little bit. He shot just 37.5% last year because he had to do a lot for that offense. The offensive pressure is off this year and he’s shooting under 36%. I’m not sure why that is.
  • Kyle Washington didn’t look fantastic, struggled with fouls in the first half, and then got hurt. Not all of those are his fault — injuries happen and good shots were rimming out for everyone last night. He corrected the fouls in the second half before he sat down, evidently for injury reasons. Regardless of who’s to blame, Kyle needs to be a bit better when the Bearcats square off against Butler next week.


  • It was the first Iowa State loss at Hilton to a non-conference team in 38 games. As far as I can tell, their last loss to a non-conference team at home was Northern Illinois in November 2011. That was 10 days before the Xavier brawl.
  • It was the first time Iowa State was held to 54 points at Hilton since February 2009 against Kansas State. That game ended in regulation. UC did it with five extra minutes.
  • The last time Iowa State was held to 22 or fewer field goals at Hilton was January 2014 against a Kansas team that had players like Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden Jr., and Frank Mason. The time before that was in 2012, also against Kansas.
  • Cincinnati was held to 55 points for the first time since… January against USF. We won that game. We’re good at this stuff. The last time UC was held to 55 points in an overtime game was December 2014 against Nebraska, and that game went to two overtimes. Cincinnati lost 56–55.
  • The last time the Bearcats held their opponents to 54 points in an overtime game was on the final day of the 2012–13 season against USF. The Bearcats also won that game, 61–53.
  • The Bearcats held their opponent to 22 field goals in a road game for the first time since February against East Carolina. The last time they did it on the road against a non-conference team was last December against VCU.
  • It was the first ranked win for the Bearcats since beating #24 SMU on Senior Day last season. It was the highest ranked team Cincinnati has beaten since they knocked off #19 San Diego State in December 2014 — a game which also went to overtime.