Originally posted on Bearcats Blog  |  Last updated 11/11/13
Cincinnati opened the basketball season with a 74-61 victory over North Carolina Central that raised a couple of issues. The first is that this team needs some work. We all knew that they would coming into the season. This is as young a group as we've seen since the 2010 season with Stephenson, Gates, Dixon and freshman Cash. There is starting experience at two positions. Maybe 3 because Rubles and Jackson took turns starting last year. Ge'Lawn Guyn has never started. Shaquille Thomas has never started. Jermaine Lawrence and Troy Caupain played the second and third most minutes off the bench. They never played period. Jermaine Sanders has never played a ton of minutes like he will going forward. UC needs to find the combos that mesh. It's going to take some time. Luckily the non-conference slate is forgiving until December. Tuesday will be a test with a talented NC State squad. If UC gives this kind of effort, that might not be a fun game. The second thing we have to look at is the defense. UC apparently didn't get into the new offense. While I don't understand that, I'm willing to give it a pass since scoring 74 points is normally enough to win. The defense let NCC back in the game by seeing them shoot 44% in the second half. The defense saw Jeremy Ingram go 6-7 in the second half while attempting 7 free throws. The defense put NC Central on the line 28 times. The defense allowed NC Central to pull in 34% of their misses. A little more worrisome is NCC scored 28 points in the paint. If this team is beating you down low, eek. Things have to be tightened up and quick. One of the positive things this team did was rebound. They pulled in 48.6% of their offensive rebounds. It showed itself with 19 second chance points. The Cats got to the foul line 31 times. They only turned it over 12. There were some positives on a poor shooting night, 39.3%. Titus Rubles nearly put up a double double with 13 points and 8 rebounds. He added 3 steals and a block on the defensive end. Titus was 3-7 from the field. He matched his career high with 12 free throw attempts. He only made 7 though. 3 of his 8 rebounds were offensive. He looked good for the most part. Rubles looks to be the clear second threat offensively. I'm not sure if this is a good or bad thing. Rubles also had 3 turnovers. If the big men are going to be handling the ball, they can't turn it over a combined 8 times. That's a bit of a spoiler alert for the next couple of guys I'm going to talk about. Really don't like the shorts on that view. The shoes look cool. Mixed bag out of Shaquille Thomas. On one hand, he had 5 rebounds. On the other, he played just 11 minutes. He turned the ball over 3 times and was called for 2 fouls. I mentioned in the preseason preview, see up top in the 3rd box, that consistency would be the biggest thing to look for out of him. It was not there Friday night. There was a lot of hope and optimism that Justin Jackson would carry over what we saw in the preseason to the real games. That did not happen in the first one. He was plagued by foul trouble, 4 limited him to 21 minutes. He managed to block 3 shots. He also managed to have 1 defensive rebound. Not good enough. Jackson was 4-5 from the field. He also turned the ball over twice. One of them was on a horrible pass. UC got beat on the fast break to the tune of 13-4. They made up for that some by converting 16 turnovers into 18 points. With 11:11 to go, UC was up 60-45 after a Kilpatrick 3. NCC cut the lead down to 10, that was the shot that looked like UC was putting their foot down. What ended up happening was an 11-2 run in under 4 minutes. The Cats had three missed 3 pointers and a missed front end of a 1-1. Sean Kilpatrick came right back to score 4 straight points. That gave UC an 8 point cushion, one that would grow to the final margin. SK put up 22 for Cincinnati on 6-13 shooting, 2-7 from 3. He was a sparkling 8-9 at the foul line. Love seeing that total. He added 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. SK had 2 turnovers as well. He carried UC when they needed points, he was unguardable at times and he is awesome and I love him. Kilpatrick could have lines like this all season. It's not hard to envision. Your starting lineup gave you 7 assists and 10 turnovers. That's a pretty horrible ratio. None from the big men. That's a huge reason the offense didn't look that good. Getting back to game talk real quick, the turning point was when Jeremy Ingram fouled out with 6:32 left and Central down 6. He picked up a really silly foul too by bumping a cutting Kilpatrick coming off a screen. Central scored 3 points after he hit the bench. Jay Copeland getting a technical with Titus Rubles to foul out 90 seconds later didn't help them either. Ge'Lawn Guyn had a solid first start. He was 2-4 from 3, 0-3 from 2, for 6 points. He had 3 assists to 0 turnovers with a rebound. He played a bulk of the point guard minutes with 23. He didn't look spectacular. He doesn't have to be. He just had to play solid ball. Guyn definitely has to cut the fouls. He was called for 3. Guyn also blew a couple of layups. Like this one. UC as a team had trouble finishing around the rim. I guess Mick doesn't teach this in practice. Jermaine Sanders played 31 minutes and he looked great. Sanders was 4-8, 3-6 from 3, 2-3 at the line for 13 points. That was his career high. Jermaine had 4 rebounds, 2 offensive, and 3 assists. With his normally solid defense, Sanders added a ton. He can play the 3 and the 4. That versatility is huge. I loved seeing him have a big game. Hopefully he can keep it going. You can do it, Jermaine. I believe in you. Jermaine Lawrence made a mark in his 17 minutes. He was just 1-4 from the field, but he hit 4-5 from the foul line for 6 points. He pulled in a couple of boards with a couple of steals. Lawrence was called for a couple of fouls, so he has something to work on. The best statistical lineup UC had was with Lawrence on the floor. When he starts getting shots to fall, he's going to be awfully hard to get off it. Troy Caupain played the most minutes as the back up point guard with 13. he was 0-3, 0-1, from the field. He did score his first Cincinnati points by going 2-2 from the foul line. Caupain had 2 assists to 1 turnover while pulling in 2 rebounds. He looked a bit shaky some stretches, more solid in others. I don't know how much he'll play against NC State, I would like to see him get more run against Appalachian in the following game. Jeremiah Davis scored 2 points with 2 boards in 9 minutes. He was 1-2 from the field, 0-1 from 3. He picked up a foul. Davis ran the team alright I guess. He didn't really do a lot. I don't understand why some people think that he's the answer for PG. He's an average player. That makes me sound mean when I say that, but it's true. He's not as talented as Guyn or Caupain or Johnson. He definitely isn't defensively. His +/- was 0. That seems about right. Kevin Johnson wasn't shy in the exhibition season, nor was he shy in his debut. Johnson went 0-5, 0-2 form 3. Unlike the other freshman, he didn't get to the line. Kevin had 2 offensive rebounds in his 9 minutes. I asked people on twitter what freshman would put up the most shots. I was waiting for someone to say Johnson so I could be like "Yes he will, you are a smart one." No one did. I guess the people who follow me on twitter aren't smart? Nah, they are the smartest people in the world. Especially you. This stopped being about Kevin Johnson. Here is a picture of him. Big Dave Nyarsuk played 1 minute very early in the game when Mick was clearly unhappy with the players on the floor. He quickly turned the ball over and was pulled. Rough game. Mick was very lineup aggressive. When UC got off to a sluggish start, 4 of the 5 starters were off the floor 3 minutes into the game. He's got the depth to be able to mix and match with the lineups. I hope that he does as the season progresses. I'm really interested in the types of combos he can play. This is an interesting roster. Photos via Go Bearcats / the talented Lisa Ventre
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