| The News Record)
In search of their biggest win of the season, Troy Caupain and Gary Clark got little help from the rest of their team in a 10-point road loss to the Butler Bulldogs. The Bearcats gutted out a decent first half to enter the break tied at 35, but sloppy play, foul trouble, and questionable officiating doomed the ‘Cats in the second half. Here’s what happened:
- This was probably the most forgivable loss on the schedule. On the flip side, that means it would’ve been a big win, but this loss will do very little to hurt the Bearcats in the long run. It wasn’t a home loss, it wasn’t a loss to a lowly team, and it wasn’t a loss in the AAC. Additionally, it wasn’t a game I felt like we should’ve won. That’s what made last year’s losses so excruciating. In those games, UC played well enough to win, yet lost. Yesterday, UC played a poor game against a good team in a tough environment with some questionable officiating. I didn’t lose sleep over that one.
- Troy Caupain had his best game of the season. He finished with 22 points and five rebounds on 9-for-15 shooting, 7-for-8 from inside the arc. For the first time this season, Troy looked like the conference player of the year. The Bearcats need him to be more like this every single game if they want to run the table in the AAC and earn a high seed. Troy was feeling himself, and you could tell.
- Gary Clark looked like Gary Clark. He brought home 14 points and 12 rebounds on 7-for-13 shooting, 7-for-10 inside the arc. He doesn’t need to take that many outside shots, but he played well otherwise. It was a classic 2015–16 Gary Clark game, which we haven’t seen enough of.
- The Bearcats gutted it out for a while. In a number of ways, the odds were against them. Regardless, the Bearcats battled to a halftime tie and hung around for most of the second half before it became apparent that they didn’t have enough. This team needs to do learn to do that, because they’ll have cold spells in conference play that they’ll need to overcome if they want to avoid bad losses. A loss is a loss, but it’s encouraging to see an overall bad outing against a good team in a tough environment result in just a 10-point loss that was honestly closer than the score makes it seem.
- Kyle Washington was putrid. Comparing talent to on-court results, this may be the worst game by a UC star in recent memory. I didn’t believe the box score, so I checked a few different sites. That’s how bad this was. Washington finished with seven points on 2-for-8 shooting. He didn’t have a single rebound. He didn’t have a single assist. He played just 19 minutes because he spent 90% of the game in foul trouble, eventually fouling out. Awful, awful, awful. If you’re looking for something to freak out about (I know some of you are), there’s this: Washington has had two really rocky games this year, and they were in UC’s toughest games. He’s been a phenomenal player for the Bearcats, but he can’t shrink on the biggest stages.
- Jacob Evans made himself a non-factor, at least for most of the game. He didn’t get himself enough shots, and he seemed timid and rattled for most of the game. I guess it’s encouraging to see a young player sleepwalk his way to a 14-point game on 5-for-12 shooting (which is a solid day by UC standards), but Jacob has to be more than that for the Bearcats, especially in the biggest games. Big Game Jake did not show up on Saturday.
- Kevin Johnson has to learn when to stop shooting. He’s never been a scorer, but sometimes he seems to forget that. He shot 2-for-9, including 0-for-4 from deep. When UC’s trying to minimize possessions, that’s a lot of opportunities used up by a guy who simply shouldn’t be shooting that much. It’s fine. It’s not his role. He just needs to realize that.
- The bench has to do something. This is a lot like the 2011–12 team in that there’s a lot of talent in the starting lineup, but not deep in the bench. In big games, Mick has made it clear that the starting lineup will play the vast majority of available minutes. The bench has to at least chip in. Yesterday they were given a larger role due to some foul trouble, and they scored just four points on a combined 1-for-8 shooting. You can’t have more fouls and turnovers (6) than points (4).
- Free throw shooting is a concern. The Bearcats shot 7-for-13 at the line, which isn’t good. What’s worse is that Troy shot 2-for-5 — inexcusable for a senior point guard. Gary shot 0-for-2, which has to be better as a veteran player.
- The officiating was horrible. I never complain about officiating, but some of those calls were… questionable. That’s all I’m gonna say.
- Some fans are insane. On Twitter, I heard that Cronin is the same as Tuberville, the season is over, and that the team is satisfied with mediocrity… because they lost to the #16 team… on the road. Okay.
The Bearcats will try to cling to their Top 25 spot on Monday, and they deserve to. This is essentially an off week, as the ‘Cats look to blow out Texas Southern and Fairleigh Dickinson before a game against a decent Marshall team opens the door to the AAC. It’s time for the Bearcats to iron out the kinks because the stakes get higher in a few weeks.