Since joining the AAC, the Bearcats haven’t played well in Philly once. The first trip in 2014 saw a top-15 Bearcats team squeak by a Temple squad that won nine games all year. The Bearcats got bludgeoned in 2015, losing by 16 points. The following year they lost in 2OT. Last year, the top-25 Bearcats opened conference play in Philadelphia and mustered just 56 points, inching past the Owls.
The prospects of a 9pm weeknight game in Philly have terrified me since the tip time was announced. There’s something about that building that doesn’t agree with the Bearcats, and something about these 9pm games that always seems to go poorly.
In the end, we were all right about the game and wrong about this team. I had a feeling we’d go through hell on Thursday night, but until the final moments, I didn’t believe we’d escape with a win. The Bearcats pulled it off.
Jacob Evans is learning to be the man. Look, hitting the game winner doesn’t erase having a sleepy game when the Bearcats desperately needed him to step up. However, it also kinda does. He didn’t have a bad game by any means. He shot 6-for-14 with six rebounds, four assists, and three steals. And, on a night when the entire roster was either in foul trouble or turning the ball over like crazy, Evans had just two turnovers and no fouls in 39 minutes. However, Jacob’s tendency to kind of just… exist… out there is frustrating for a kid with his talent. Hopefully knocking down that shot helps him learn to seize the game down the stretch. He has the ability to.
Kyle Washington was terrible until he was great. I was ready to catch a flight to Philly and boo this kid in the first half, but you’d never guess looking at his final stats. He pulled it together in the second half, led the team with 18 points, and hit an incredibly important shot when his corner three splashed to give the Bearcats their first lead since the early going. I think his shot snapped an 0-for-11 UC streak on threes, and that was huge.
Fran Dunphy’s water bottle may be the MVP. A coach who generally keeps his cool got frustrated and smacked his water bottle onto the floor. The Bearcats made just 1-of-2 of the ensuing technical free throws, but that one point was the most drastic momentum swing this team has experienced this season. I had zero faith in the comeback before Dunphy got T’d up.
Jarron Cumberland’s offensive rating was SEVEN. That’s right, 7.
The free throw shooting was trash. It’s a bad night when 12-for-20 makes things look better than they were. For the vast majority of this game, the Bearcats couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat. Not only that, but they weren’t getting to the line much either.
The bench was tragic. What do the analytics say about a bench unit scoring four points and committing seven turnovers? The days of gushing about Cincinnati’s depth feel like years ago. That being said, there were outside factors here. Cane Broome, bench extraordinaire, sat out with an ankle injury. Gary and Kyle got into early foul trouble, completely mucking up the rotations. Temple did an incredible job at attacking UC’s guards and keeping possessions down. The Bearcats, especially the bench, flourish when they’re getting up and down the court, the outside game is working, and substitutions are liberal. I think Temple has exposed things a bit, and the Bearcats are now somewhat victim to their own game. Cut way down on possessions and you can severely limit UC’s ability to use its talent. Then again, sometimes you just have these kinds of games. It’s remarkable UC fought through.
SMU lost to Tulane last night. They’re still a top-30 team, but now they’re headed into Cincinnati looking to get back on track. The Bearcats will have to come out swinging on Sunday. Beat the Ponies and I think UC is in the clear for a serious winning streak.