The Bearcats overcame their typical sluggish start in Tampa to beat the lowly Bulls on Saturday night. The 'Cats are officially 15-2 and have run their win streak to eight games. Here's what happened on a sleepy night in Florida:
Jarron Cumberland is back. Right now, this is the only fact preventing this from being the most forgettable game of the conference slate. Cumberland threw in 18 points, his most since before the Cayman Islands Classic, and he did it on 7-for-11 shooting, he most efficient night on 10+ attempts this season. Both Jarron and the Bearcats needed this bounce back, especially with a projected scoring drought looming in Orlando on Tuesday.
Jacob Evans is rolling downhill, and the AAC should be on watch. Prior to a couple games ago, UC's biggest weakness was their lack of alpha scorer. They had tons of talent, but nobody to seize the reigns, especially in close or sloppy games. Jacob Evans appears to have stepped up to the plate. Since his tamest game of the season against Cleveland State three outings ago, Jake is averaging 15 points, 4.5 assists, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.8 steals on 49% from the field and 41% from outside.
Gary Clark had a double-double. He is a problem.
Nas Brooks had a nice little game. In just nine minutes, he tallied six points on 2-for-2 shooting to go with a couple rebounds and a couple blocks. He and Trevon Scott will be important to this team's success as guys that can plug a hole for a few minutes or take over larger stretches in an emergency.
The free throw shooting was out of this world. I have no idea how that happened, especially on the road. The starters shot 20-for-20 and the team shot 27-for-31, good for 87%. The 'Cats haven't shot 87% on 30+ attempts since at least 2010-11, when Basketball Reference stats cut off.
USF got stuffed. The Bulls shot just 40% on the game, including just 34% from inside the arc. Starters combined for just 21 points and the only South Florida player in double figures was Payton Banks, a Penn State transfer who went kinda nuts with 22 on 7-for-10 shooting.
The offense actually looked fluid. Keep in mind this was against one of the worst teams in America. It's still nice to see. After a slow start, things kicked into gear for the 'Cats, who finished with a 43-point second half. 1.39 points per possession is good, especially when your opponent is scoring less than 1 point per possession.
The point guards, while virtually mistake-free, were uninspiring. Other than that, I really struggle to find a blemish in this one aside from the sluggish start. Good (or even average) teams will punish you for the kind of start the Bearcats had on Saturday. However, good teams finish like the Bearcats do. I'm not worried by anything in this game.
The 'Cats are waiting in Florida for their Tuesday night matchup that should be hair-raising. UCF has one of the toughest defenses in America. Cincinnati's shot came with them to Tampa on Tuesday, but they'll come back to Clifton 1-1 on the trip if it doesn't follow them to Orlando. Cincinnati lost a heartbreaker there last year. While I wouldn't bet on a repeat, it's absolutely possible and something everyone should be on alert for.