It felt like another one of these games was coming. The Bearcats lead the country in margin of victory but won their previous three games by spreads of 14, 10, and eight points. Cincinnati got back to their dominating ways on Tuesday night, blasting Central Florida to the tune of a 77-40 final that somehow wasn't even that close. Here's what happened:
The defense was on another level. This team currently has the second-best adjusted defensive efficiency of any D1 team in the past three seasons. Despite that, I'm not sure I've ever led with defense in one of my recaps. Last night, it was the leading story. The Bearcats held UCF to just 13 points in the first half. The Knights scored their third point of the game with less than seven minutes remaining in the half, and that was with a free throw. Central Florida finished the game with 40 points and that was after a second half that saw them more than double their first half point total. I've been watching the Bearcats crush teams on the defensive end for a long while, but the first 75% of this game was something else.
Trevor Moore is becoming one of my favorite players on this team, and that's saying something considering this roster boasts a future NBA player and one of the best Bearcats ever. Moore came off the bench and scored 14 points in just 13 minutes. Trevon also deserves a mention here with his team-high eight rebounds in 14 minutes. The whole bench had one of their best games in weeks, mostly because the starters gave them lots of playing time.
Kyle Washington continues to explode. I'm going to keep beating the drum for this kid until people give him the credit he deserves, because he's been stellar in his last six games. He played just 17 minutes on Tuesday, yet scored 13 points on 6-for-9 shooting to go with three rebounds and three blocks. Remember when the knock on Washington was that e was a strong offensive player but he scored inefficiently and provided little on defense? That was a month ago. Now this kid is out here shooting over 50% in his last six games and blocking shots left and right. The Big Two of Clark and Evans has quietly turned into a Big Three in the past few weeks.
Justin Jenifer was pretty great, at least in the first half. He hit a trio of three pointers and then got a little shot happy, attempting nine on the night. Still, he was feeling it before the break.
Cumberland is totally flying under the radar. I know I haven't talked much about him on the blog recently, but he hasn't gone anywhere. He had nine points, six rebounds, and four assists in 26 minutes last night. He's going to sneak up on teams because the scouting report will be dominated by Clark, Evans, and Washington.
The rebound margin was 48 to 31. That will win you a lot of games.
UCF did not make a single three-pointer for the first time since 2012, snapping a 154-game streak. Before you ask, Cincinnati's last game without an outside shot was the infamous Valentine's Day loss to Tulane at the buzzer in 2015.
If you're going to be insanely picky, you could say that the Bearcats gave up 27 second half points to this team. However, if you hold a conference opponent to 40, that's good by any measure.
The point guard confusion marches on. I should just make this a staple of these posts. Cane Broome got 13 minutes off the bench and racked up five assists and three steals. Justin Jenifer had the aforementioned three outside shots in the first half. Good, right? Unfortunately, the two guards combined to shoot 4-for-17. Again, the Bearcats absolutely decimated the Knights, so how worried should we really be? I just would love to have a clear solution to this by now. I'm not sure I want to head into March with this weird platoon situation that's been working but feels unstable. Do you risk giving Evans significant minutes at the point guard spot and lose the insane speed and distribution Broome and Jenifer give you? Do you leave things how they are and risk getting to the postseason and getting tanked by a guard shooting 2-for-10 with five turnovers? I feel like I'm probably making this seem more dire than it is, but it's something to keep an eye on.
The home stretch is upon us and the Bearcats achieved the goal I've been talking about for weeks. They're headed to Dallas to play SMU with a 22-2 record. A win on Sunday would give the Bearcats their best start to a season since 2002. The finish line is in sight. Just keep winning.