Cincinnati had their first of “those games” in 2017–18, but they managed to pull it out. That’s really all that matters, and if it renders the rest of what I’m about to say useless. Truly. Stop reading.
Here’s the thing: Even good teams have games where everything seems to be off-track from the start. Last year, it was the Rhode Island game in non-conference play and the SMU game in the AAC Championship Game. In 2015–16, the Bearcats had a handful of those games, but the Tulsa and Houston road trips come to mind. In 2014–15 it was Ole Miss, Tulane, and ECU. In 2013–14 it was New Mexico and Xavier. It’s not a satisfying answer, but every team has games that just suck and don’t tell you anything about how good or bad the team is. Last night was one of those games. Everything was clearly amiss but the Bearcats were good enough to win it. Here’s what happened:
This tournament is definitely something.Matt wrote about it last night, so I’m not going to linger. On the plus side, it was wildly entertaining for a game that probably wouldn’t have been very fun otherwise.
Gary Clark is a problem. He’s had a fairly quiet start to his senior season, and I was starting to wonder if he was in a funk trying to play at a pace that’s pretty different from everything he grew comfortable win in his first three seasons. On Monday night, he exploded back onto the scene in an ugly game that seemed catered to his skill set. With everyone in a funk, the Bearcats needed someone to rely on. Gary stepped up to the plate with 24 points and 14 rebounds. He finished with his third-best point total, his second-best rebound total, and second-most FTs. Huge game.
Jarron Cumberland was a contributor. He had his fair share of mistakes, and I’ll hit those later. For now, I’d like to point out that he’s approaching the Gary Clark zone where even his “bad” games are still pretty good. He finished with 14 points, six rebounds, and a pair of assists.
The free throw shooting is back. I love the roller coaster, folks. I can’t believe we’re in another season of it. In Game 1, the Bearcats shot 50% from the line. In Game 2: 79%. In Game 3: 58%. On Monday night: 77%. On one hand, they never have back-to-back poor nights at the line. On the other hand, they never have back-to-back good nights either. They were very similar to this last year, and I can’t explain it. How can a team fluctuate between very good and terrible? They shot 27-for-35 on Monday, barely missing their season-best 27-for-34 against Western Carolina.
Everything not listed above was terrible. Again, I don’t think this game tells us much about the team. Things were so clearly out-of-whack that I can’t even read into any of these stats. Regardless, there were mostly bad things happening on Monday in a real game that (somehow) really happened, so I’m going to talk about them.
This tournament is definitely something. The stream is terrible. The venue is terrible. The refs are terrible. The locker rooms are terrible. Everything is terrible. Again, Matt wrote about this.
Jarron Cumberland was bad. As I mentioned above, even his bad games are pretty good. He contributed in scoring and rebounding, finishing second on the team in each. He also turned the ball over seven times. That’s an incredible amount, especially for a shooting guard. It’s easily the most of Cumberland’s career. He also committed four fouls, nearly fouling out for the first time as a Bearcat. Toss in an uninspiring 4-for-7 from the line and it’s a wonder he was about to help enough to offset some of these mistakes.
Jacob Evans wasn’t much better. He scored nine points to go with four rebounds and three assists. He took four shots and made two. He took four free throws and made two. Thankfully he only turned the ball over once. Still not a very inspiring game for UC’s best playmaker. He’s held to a higher standard and can’t be this quiet.
Kyle Washington was incredibly frustrating. He had these kinds of games last year and it would occasionally bite the Bearcats. He’s very hot and cold. He’s either a blast to watch or he makes you want to break something. He’s got tons of talent, so I’m trusting that will prevail.
The bench did nothing. They shot 3-for-10 inside the arc and had 11 points total. UC didn’t end up needing a huge game from them, but they’ll need to be better in the long run. The Bearcats bench is one of their biggest differentiators and they can’t afford to get so little from the second unit.
The Bearcats basically grinded their way to this win in what was a total slopfest. I have a suspicion we’ll look back at this game and be happy we had it, because Buffalo is in position to have a sneaky-good season. They had playmakers I was impressed with, and they’ll be strong contenders in the MAC. They’re only 140 in KenPom right now, but that will probably creep up as the season goes along and this win will certainly be a decent resume piece if the Bulls are in position to make the NCAA Tournament come March.