Two Cents and Sense: Cincinnati Bearcats vs SMU (Round 2)

[photo by Emily Witt | OhVarsity!]

[photo by Emily Witt | OhVarsity!]

If you're reading this, you officially survived the 2019 Cincinnati @ SMU basketball game. Congratulations. I think we lost of few of us to dysentery.

Importantly, the Bearcats came away victorious. Shocked? You shouldn't be. The narrow 52-49 win for Cincinnati is par for the course when they play in enemy territory. In seven road wins this season, the 'Cats have won by five points or fewer six times. It's remarkable, and perhaps some penance for the 2015-16 hell-ride in which they managed to be on the receiving end of so many of these same kinds of games.

It's not often a team shoots 26.6% from the floor in conference play and emerges victorious. I'm happy with the outcome, but I'd be a lot more content if this weren't becoming the status quo. The Bearcats are an elite program when it comes to winning ugly games, and Wednesday night's eyesore checks in near the top of my list.

The Bearcat offense looked brutal in Dallas, but not for lack of trying. The effort was there, which is the least any of us can ask. SMU kept it close by keeping UC off the line for most of the night, getting the benefit of more than a few questionable calls—surprise! Top it off with a bushel of missed lay-ins, some unfortunate Cincinnati miscues, and a 27-point surge from Jahmal McMurray, and it's kind of a marvel the Bearcats are getting on the plane with a victory.

Even with so many elements gone awry, the 'Cats brought it home with the little things. They pulled in 50 rebounds—the most since last season's opener against trigger-happy Savannah State and the most in a conference game since the 2016 loss to Temple that went to two overtimes. They also got the job done at the line, as they've done the last four games. Wednesday's 14-for-15 clip brings the run in that period to 62-for-71 (87%). Shorten the parameters to the last three contests, and the 'Cats are a startling 40-for-43, good for 93% (!!).

These are marks of effort and discipline, which is something for fans to lean on when everything else has seemed to be a bit more difficult than it should be.

Jarron Cumberland, entangled in a mess of defensive fury for five consecutive halves, finally shook loose late against the Ponies. He finished with 12 points, shooting just 4-for-13 from the field, but his late offensive "surge" and the seven rebounds and four assists he contributed were an unquestionable factor, even in a questionable victory. When defenders drape all over him, he's typically good about distributing instead of forcing the issue. Unfortunately, it's getting to the point where the team needs an extra few buckets from him. The officials have not given Teddy the benefit of the doubt in this recent slump, and it shows. Defenders tend to claw at him when the ball isn't in his hands, and referees have been quick to whistle any aggression returned. The mini JC run down the stretch at Moody was reassuring, but I'll be looking for a bounce-back effort in a sold-out Shoemaker Center when this team stares down Memphis Saturday.

It's hard to appoint a Player of the Game when that ugly 12-point performance for Cumberland was the high-point total for UC. The next closest player scored just eight, and when the team shoots as poorly as the Bearcats did, there aren't many bright spots.

Nysier Brooks' stat-line stands out, for both good and bad reasons. He put together eight points, 12 rebounds, and three blocks, but shot 3-for-12 and often struggled to get out of his own way. The effort was there, even if it was woefully unpolished.

Joining him in this category were Trevon Scott—who finished with four points and nine rebounds on 2-for-8 shooting—and Keith Williams—who added eight points and five rebounds on 2-for-11 shooting. Ugly.

Cincinnati's most efficient night probably belongs to the much-maligned transfer, Rashawn Fredericks. Six points. Four rebounds. Two-for-three shooting. Two-for-two at the line. I can't believe I can say this about anyone tonight, but it was a perfect outing off the bench.

The 'Cats allowed just one Mustang to score more than seven points, yet won the game by a single possession. Coming off a pair of hairy wins, that isn't going to do much to quell anxiety in the fan base. To those fans, I don't know what to say other than, "24-4." I'm a bit uneasy about how they've gotten here, but the Bearcats have already surpassed my expectations for this season with a few big chances left before the conference tournament.

It's been a ride full of winning and heartburn, and now we head to March with no end to the hysterics in sight.

Yeehaw. Invest in some Tums.

Stray Thoughts

  • Just one tonight: OhVarsity! officially hit 5,000 followers on Twitter. I’m grateful for the loyal Bearcat fans that I’ve been blessed with as an audience. Thanks for riding with us. I appreciate you.