Saturday night was always going to be a challenge for Cincinnati, but I thought they had a good chance to win.
After tipoff, it took only a few minutes for me to realize a win was probably not in the cards. The Bearcats fell in Starkville, amid a hail of Bulldog three pointers, 70-59.
The ‘Cats simply did not play well enough to beat a top-20 team on the road. They lost the three-point battle 52% to 21%. They lost the rebound battle 34-30. They committed way too many turnovers.
And that’s before mentioning the officiating, which was all too happy to ring up Cincinnati’s front court all night. Nysier Brooks fouled out, Trevon Scott spent most of the game in foul trouble, finishing with four personal fouls, and Keith Williams was tagged for four of his own. The Bearcats played large swaths of the second half with Rashawn Fredericks and Eliel Nsoseme as their bigs—a fun change of pace… just not ideal on the road against the country’s #18 team.
Not all was a waste, and Cronin agreed.
I thought Jarron Cumberland had a good game. He finished with 21 points, scoring in several big situations, and shooting 5-for-5 at the line. He committed a brutal five turnovers and seemed to struggle to score at times in the first half, but he was Cincinnati’s rock most of the night, which is his job. It’s impressive the Bearcats had a player score 21 in a huge road game and my biggest reaction was, “He easily could’ve had another eight points.”
Anyone worried about how legitimate Keith Williams’ emergence is should watch tape of Saturday’s game. Scoring 15 points against NC Central is one thing. Doing it on the road against Mississippi State is another. He also added two rebounds, two assists, two blocks, and a steal.
Nysier Brooks had a solid performance prior to fouling out. Fouls cost him playing time (he only recorded 20 minutes of action) but nine points and eight rebounds in that environment is encouraging, and so is 5-of-6 from the line.
Rashawn Fredericks got thrust into significant action due to foul trouble elsewhere, logging 17 minutes—his second most of the season. He finished with five points and five rebounds, and his physicality kept the Bearcats in the game longer than they should have been with Brooks and Scott benched. I’ll continue to make this comparison as long as it makes sense, but he reminds me a lot of JaQuon Parker. An undersized wing with the guts to fight in the paint will always bring a tear to my eye.
I don’t think Trevon Scott played poorly, but he clearly never got into a rhythm, in part because of Bulldog defensive pressure and in part because of foul trouble. Cane Broome also needs to be better. It was a game where the Bearcats could’ve used scoring from somewhere else, and Broome finished with as many turnovers as points in just 10 minutes.
After a six-game stretch that saw Broome average 14.3 points, he’s fallen back into a rut. In the last three games, he’s averaging three points. He’s shot 2-for-16 from the field and 0-for-6 from deep. Broome was a 39% three-point shooter a year ago. He’s shooting 18.5% this year. We know Broome is better than this, so I don’t know what the issue is. Cincinnati needs him.
It was a win I really wanted. It would’ve been huge for the resume.
That being said, a loss here isn’t the end of the world. The fact that Cincinnati was even able to hang around as well as they did, while playing like they did, provides a weird kind of reassurance. This current five-game stretch has been talked about a lot, and many agreed a 3-2 finish would’ve been passable. Well, if the Bearcats can beat a struggling UCLA team at home Wednesday, they finish 4-1.
This is not last year’s team, and that’s okay. Last year’s team probably wins that game. This type of team doesn't. That’s okay. It’s how it goes.
Get back home and beat UCLA and things are more than on track. Turn this game into a bump in the road. There’s no reason it has to be more than that.