Gary Clark has played his final home game as a Bearcat, and it happened in typical Senior Day fashion, with the Bearcats scoring tons of points. The 'Cats scored 1.37 points per possession on Sunday. They scored 1.22 points per possession in 2015. They scored 1.33 points per possession in 2014. The Bearcats have had a weird habit in past years of delivering one of their best offensive performances of the year on Senior Day. Just a tidbit I thought I'd mention. Here's what happened yesterday:
Gary Clark went out strong. The departing senior dropped off 17 points on 7-for-10 shooting, including a perfect 2-for-2 outside. (PS - Gary is 5-for-5 from deep in his last two games.) It was an emotional day, and I always worry that seniors will try too hard and wind up having a bad game. Gary made sure that didn't happen when he returned after sitting an extended period of time with foul trouble in the first half.
Kyle Washington went out strong. Was it his best game? No. But he had a solid eight points and four rebounds on 4-for-7 shooting. Nobody is going to claim Kyle had a bad day, and that's really all that matters. Hopefully Kyle felt the love. Although Gary has been the face of the program for a few years, Kyle's presence over the last two seasons has been huge in unlocking another level of offensive ability for the team as a whole. Nothing against Nysier Brooks, but I don't think anyone wants to see how the last two seasons would've played out if Brooks were asked to do what Kyle has been doing.
This was an underrated win. I had a small quarrel with Alex Apyan after the Houston loss (as coworkers are wont to do) and we traded jabs on whether or not recent failures should have fans more worried about offense or defense. This game was essentially what Alex was arguing for. Tulsa had the hot hand and UC's defense couldn't quite control them. Rather than suffer an upset, the Bearcat offense basically out-shot Tulsa. Does it feel good to be able to win with offense when necessary? Of course. Are these kinds of wins sustainable? I don't think so. I'm happy the 'Cats are able to win like they did Sunday, but I don't want that to become the game plan in March. I still believe this team must ultimately rely on defense first, but I'll admit the hot shooting is reassuring.
Jarron Cumberland is getting hot at the right time. He's averaging 13.6 points over his last five games, and was scorching hot at one point Sunday. I think one of the main reasons we're seeing this is because teams don't game plan for Jarron as much. The focus is set on Clark, Evans, and even Washington, allowing Cumberland to fly under the radar and pile up points like this.
Cane Broome is also peaking at the right time. He had 15 points on 5-for-7 shooting in 20 minutes, giving him his first back-to-back-to-back double-digit games of the season. The kid is averaging 14.7 points off the bench over the last three games. I would be fairly surprised to see it happen, but I'd like like to see Cane starting at this point. Capitalize on his hot streak as we head to Wichita and the postseason. Starting or not, he clearly deserves 25+ minutes per game at this point.
Jacob Evans got hot from outside, and that's obviously a good thing to see. He shot 4-for-5 from deep on his way to 15 points. Oddly enough, he only shot 1-for-6 from inside. Kind of a weird outing for him in what may prove to be his final home game as well. Weird times on the horizon for Bearcat fans.
Trevon Scott is a fantastic role player. Yes, he shot 0-for-3 in 21 minutes. However, he knows that isn't his role. He led the team in rebounding with seven and tallied two blocks if you count the defensive play of the year that was called a foul.
The Bearcats had 26 assists on 31 field goals. That sentence was incomprehensible prior to last season. I'm serious. Between the 2010-11 season that saw UC return to the tournament and the 2015-16 season, the Bearcats had 26 assists in a conference game precisely zero times.
The Bearcats are back to having a top-50 offense in KenPom. Defense is still #2, and offense has climbed to #45. That's not quite something to hang your hat on yet, but it's better than some trendy teams like Texas Tech, Tennessee, and Clemson.
Can we worry about the defense, at least a little bit? Yes, Tulsa is an okay offensive team with an ability to get hot, and they were on a six-game tear. However, Tulsa is still not a top-100 offense and they ripped the Bearcats at home for 46% shooting and 1.23 points per possession. Shouldn't that worry us at least a little bit?
We didn't get a perfect farewell. This is insanely picky, and I'm not sure if anyone else even noticed this, but doesn't Mick usually call a timeout a pull out one senior at a time to get them a standing ovation? We didn't get that, and Senior Day felt slightly incomplete because of it. Gary Clark's walk-off in Cincinnati wasn't a roaring ovation as he left the court, it was the Bearcats dribbling out the clock in an "okay" win over Tulsa. Kinda lame. Sorry for being nitpicky.
Seriously, Gary Clark and Kyle Washington will never play a home game for the Bearcats again. I'm still beside myself.
The Bearcats have one final chance for a tune-up before the rest of the season will require perfection. (How freaking fast did this year go by?) They're in New Orleans to face Tulane Thursday night in a game KenPom projects the 'Cats to win by 14 points.
We're reaching the climax. Just keep winning.