Cincinnati 76 – SMU 56
I'll be honest: I was a bit worried about Sunday evening's game against the Ponies. The Bearcats were on short rest after a poor game in Philly and were going up against a good SMU team that had just dropped an embarrassing game to Tulane. Tim Jankovich is not the kind of coach that lets his team lose twice in a row, so I expected a full-out war—first to 50 wins.
We didn't get that at all. Instead, the Bearcats smashed the Mustangs while running up 76 points. In a week where ranked teams were going down left and right, it was incredibly refreshing to see the Bearcats buck the trend and pick up a convincing win over a tournament team.
Here's how it went down:
Jacob Evans is arriving. Forgive the hyperbole, but these past two games may end up being the most important of Jake's Cincinnati career. On Thursday he turned in a nice outing on the road while proving to everyone, including himself, that he has the ability to close games. On Sunday, he took the floor against a brutal defense and cruised right through them, scoring another 18 points on 7-for-14 shooting to go with four rebounds, four assists, and zero turnovers. The Bearcats are hitting their stride and they're being led by Evans. It makes me tear up.
Jarron Cumberland: Back? It was still a pretty rocky game, but Cumberland has really been in a funk lately. I'll gladly take 14 points on 4-for-13 shooting, especially considering he shot 4-for-4 at the line. Saturday's game against a bottom-feeder USF team should also help ease him out of this rut.
Cane Broome: Literally back. Cane played just 12 minutes returning from an ankle injury and didn't even have a huge impact on paper. He scored just three points—all at the free throw line—and had four fouls and three turnovers. That being said, there's an undeniable impact. Simply having him on the floor gives the Bearcats a different wrinkle than Justin Jenifer does.
Trevon Scott had a nice little game. I think he's struggled for a lot of this year, but he seems to thrive like Justin Jackson did in these kinds of physical, sloppy games. Scott had four points, four rebounds, an assist, a block, a steal, and zero turnovers in 17 minutes. That's his role. He also had perhaps the best dunk of the year.
Gary Clark is a problem. 18 points and eight rebounds.
Jahmal McMurray had seven turnovers in nine minutes and didn't score his first (and only) field goal until late in the game. McMurray is an impact player for SMU and UC eliminated him from this game.
The offensive rebounding was stellar. The Bearcats shot just 28% from the field in the first half, but took a 14-point lead to the break thanks to an 11-3 advantage on the offensive glass. As is common, they couldn't find their shot early. However, they were able to maintain a lead thanks to a steady flow of second chance points. It was beautiful.
The Bearcats forced 18 turnovers. This is good.
UC surrendered just 18 field goals to its opponent for the third consecutive game. Opponents are shooting a combined 34% against UC in this stretch.
The win streak is at seven games.
The home win streak is at 35 games.
The Bearcats are 7-0 at home against SMU all-time.
Kyle Washington and Jarron Cumberland are two significant offensive factors on this team. Both are really struggling to score efficiently. They shot a combined 8-for-25 on Sunday. It hasn't mattered yet, but those two being consistently positive impacts on games is the difference between UC being eliminated on the first weekend in March and making a run.
Free throw shooting still isn't there. The team shot 20-for-29, good for 69%. This is nice, but still could use improvement. I'm dreading the night when this catches up with the Bearcats.
Up next, the Bearcats hit the road against the South Florida Bulls for a Saturday night contest. USF is arguably the worst team in this terrible conference, so it should be a chance to get everyone out of a slump and get some fatigued guys a few extra minutes of rest. The KenPom prediction has Cincinnati -19, but it'll likely be worse than that. Keep winning.