The Bearcat train keeps on rolling.
After a sluggish start over bottom feeder East Carolina, the Bearcats clamped down on the defensive end to bury the Pirates 86-60. It’s a very good sign when you’re kind of irritated about giving up 60 points to an opponent for the first time in a month. These are the kind of problems that any other top-25 team would kill to have. Here’s what happened Saturday:
Gary Clark is going out with a bang. The senior is pulling a Sean Kilpatrick (or Yancy Gates) and catching fire at the end of his senior year. On Saturday, he finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds, bringing his total over the past two games to 31 and 29. Those numbers are laughable, and there’s a decent chance they’ll continue on Wednesday night when Temple visits. As a party favor, Gary tossed in two assists, two steals, and two blocks. He did not have a turnover. By the way, he played 26 minutes and put up those numbers. Unbelievable.
Jacob Evans continues to be who the Bearcats need him to be. He’s scored in double figures in each of UC’s conference games, and aside from the UCF rock fight, has been shooting extremely efficiently. On Saturday, he dropped off 17 points on 7-for-12 shooting. I can only hope he’s not peaking too early. The Bearcats need this for the rest of the season.
Jarron Cumberland is officially back. Ignoring the UCF game, which was an offensive anomaly for everyone, Cumberland is averaging 15.3 points since his resurgence. I hope he can maintain this consistency, but this recent spurt feels like more than a flash in the pan. Having a second consistent scorer on the wing will pay massive dividends for UC down the stretch. Gary and Kyle have the inside under control, and Jacob and Jarron can handle the perimeter and driving lanes. That doesn’t even take into account the point guard position, which has two different looks depending on who’s on the floor. If Cincinnati can stay hot, they are an extremely dangerous team that can score in a multitude of ways while defending at an elite level.
Cane Broome had one of the better games of his season. Hear me out: Seven points, six assists, three rebounds, and a steal in 28 minutes with no turnovers or fouls. His shooting efficiency wasn’t out of this world, but this may have been our first peak at everything Cane can be. If he turns into a scorer and distributor that doesn’t make mistakes, look out.
Trevor Moore has been such a pleasant surprise. He isn’t putting up big numbers, but he also isn’t getting big minutes. Instead, the freshman is acing the eye test. His defense is much better than I anticipated going into this season and his offense is much more well-rounded. I feel like I had bought into the idea that he’d be a pick-and-pop shooter early in his career, but that isn’t the case. His lateral quickness can keep him in front of any ball handler, and also serves him well when getting to the hoop. The upside feels endless.
At some point, something needs to be done about the slow starts. It’s worked out fine during this winning streak because the Bearcats have played mostly mediocre teams and have crushed them for the final 30 minutes, but a better team is going to rake Cincinnati over the coals for starting sluggish.
The defense seems to let up against bad teams. This is another thing that could eventually bite them, although I’m being nitpicky now. In the last month-ish, the Bearcats gave up 60 to a cruddy ECU team, 55 to a cruddy USF team, and 62 to a cruddy Cleveland State team. I know their best defense games have come against good teams, I just hope they don’t overlook a team like Memphis or Tulane who have the ability to score some points on the right night.
The train keeps rolling downhill, and the Bearcats have to stay focused. They’re home free until a February 11th trip to Dallas, but there is room for error. Wednesday night sees the Temple team that nearly bit them come to Cincy. On Saturday they travel to Memphis to play in a building that can be tricky against a team that can be unpredictable. On the 31st it’s Houston, arguably the third best team in the conference before games against UConn and UCF, teams with some talent but not much potential to win games down the stretch. KenPom gives Cincinnati an 82% chance or better to win each of these games. The goal is to hit the NCAA’s Top 16 Show (and the SMU game) with a 22-2 record. It’s easily attainable.
Just keep winning.