The Bearcats played their most exciting game of the season on Wednesday night, depending on how you define 'exciting.' They were losing by 18. They won by 10. Here's how it happened.
I think Kyle Washington played his best game as a Bearcat. No, it wasn't his career high in points or rebounds, and yes, he had no assists. But the kid came up with 19 points, five rebounds, and three blocks with the Bearcats fighting for their lives in the second half. At some point recently, Kyle turned into a kind of closer for this team. On Wednesday he was at it again, seemingly involved with every important play down the stretch when Cincinnati was putting the finishing touches on the best comeback of the Mick Cronin era.
Jacob Evans continues to be great, even when he's not. I think Gary is the same way, as was Sean Kilpatrick. There aren't many guys who can look like world-altering players while struggling to find their shot. Evans went 6-for-16 on Wednesday and I think most Houston fans would agree he killed the Cougars all night. He tallied 18 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and two steals. His game is becoming so well-rounded and he's finally passing both the eye test and the numbers test. He looks like a great player and the numbers back it up.
Gary Clark is a problem. He had another double-double with 14 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks. What else can you say about that kid?
Cumberland is at his best when he's aggressive. I'd love to see his efficiency come around, because he's shooting just 40% on the year--a figure he matched last night. That being said, he's an imposing presence and can use his combination of speed and size to blow up teams in transition. He bought himself ten trips to the line last night. I'll take 4-for-10 shooting when it comes with free throws and opposition foul trouble. Troy was pretty good at this and Jarron could follow his lead: If you aren't shooting that well, barrel your way down the lane like a running back.
BB&T got loud. Really loud. Keep my temporary arena's name out of your mouth, Jon Rothstein.
The top four guys on this team won the game. Cumberland, Evans, Clark, and Washington each recorded 14 or more points, enough to eliminate an 18-point deficit they created and earn a double-digit win. Nobody else on the team scored more than six points. If those four are good enough to guide a 28-point swing like that, imagine if they can perform like this with their usual elite defense. In summation: If we get Bearcat defense to go with this kind of performance from these four, this team will be legitimately unstoppable.
No other Mick Cronin team would've won this game. I believe that. To set the stage: Cincinnati is playing a tournament-caliber team that can't miss anything while the Bearcats are drowning. The refs are all over the place, unpredictably calling fouls, getting several important players in foul trouble. The deficit is 18 points. Go win. Every previous Mick team either lacks the defensive discipline, the will to win, the talent at the top, or the depth down the bench. This team had all of that and more, completing the biggest comeback of Cronin's tenure in borderline blowout fashion.
For the first time this season, I felt like this team has something extra.
Do you really want me to ramble about slow starts again? We know the issue, and it remains the only thing about this team that truly worries me.
Welcome to February. The Cincinnati Bearcats are 20-2, riding a 13-game winning streak, and ranked #8 and climbing. Just keep winning.