The Bearcats improved to 15-3, 3-2 in the Big East with a win over 10-7, 1-3 DePaul last night. Obviously the big news of the day is Cashmere Wright and his injury. Wright is day to day with a sprained knee. He's day to day, we're all day to day. There's no word if Wright will return for this weekend's game with Marquette. There won't be until later in the week I'm going to assume. This was one of the advantages of playing a game on Tuesday.
If you are one of the people who have been upset with the lack of offense the team has shown lately, now is about the time to alleviate some of those concerns. Back to back games with offensive efficiencies over 110. Last night was 113. The biggest reason is that this team is getting to the foul line and getting there with regularity. The Cats attempted 31 free throws last night. They were in the 30s against Rutgers. They've found something that has worked and they are exploiting it. The big weaknesses of Rutgers and DePaul have to do with their fouling. Cincinnati took advantage. That's what good teams do. Cincinnati didn't take the best advantage at the line, they only hit 61%, but that was the difference in the second half.
Plus, you have to look at the extraordinary numbers from the field. UC finished this game hitting 59.5% overall. They were 6-13 from 3. They had 15 assists on 25 field goal attempts. Once they were able to get the offense going, Cincinnati was damn near unstoppable. Having any kind of efficient offense with the type of defense this team can play is the difference between a team that's going to compete for a top 4 spot in the league and one that is going to struggle.
There was one giant, giant, giant flaw with the offense last night. That was the turnover problem. The Cats turned it over 19 times. They turned it over 3 times in the last 90 seconds which let DePaul scratch and claw their way into a competitive finish. The Bearcats turned it over 8 times in the second half. That gave DePaul 15 of their 32 points. Yes, half of their points came off turnovers in the second half. That's the epitome of self inflicted wounds. In the last minute or so, the three turnovers were cashed in for 7 points. A large part of this was that Cincinnati didn't have their primary ball handler when DePaul was pressing late. Some of it can be chalked up to that. We've seen this team be completely careless with the ball. We've seen them be great with the ball. Some consistency would help.
Let's move on to the player talk and some other random things.
Titus Rubles had a very quiet game. He played 5 minutes the first half thanks to foul trouble. In the second, he had 4 free throw attempts. He was 0-1, 2-4 at the line, 3 rebounds. He's adjusting to a new role in the starting lineup. He'll find some consistency.
Cheikh Mbodj had a great game blocking shots. He got 7 of them, a career high. He cleaned up DePaul drives to the basket. He's the type of player that DePaul needs inside. They give up a lot of penetration and need a guy to swat shots. I think Mbodj could have had a better offensive game if he got the ball more. He had 6 points. One of them was an Alley Mbodj:
It's a damn shame that Cashmere Wright got hurt last night because he had a monster game. He could have had an even bigger game. Cash had 20 points on 8-11 shooting, 2-3 from 3 and 2-3 from the foul line. He had 7 assists against 2 turnovers. He could get to the basket whenever he wanted. Worrel Clahar and Brandon Young and whoever else was trying to guard him had no chance. Cash was on fire in a way we haven't seen in a while. You could tell he was feeling it when he pulled the trigger on an NBA range 3 to start the second half. He's a special player. The 1-2 punch of Kilpatrick and Wright is going to be hard for anyone to stop. Especially when Wright is setting up Kilpatrick like he did last night.
Hurry back, Cashmere.
Sean Kilpatrick did what any good player does when his teammate goes down, he stepped up. SK had 3 points in the first half and 15 in the second. All 10 of his free throw attempts came in the second half. He was 4-7 from the field, 3-4 from 3 and 7-10 at the line. He had 5 of his 6 rebounds in the second half and 2 of his 3 assists. He had a play where he grabbed a long rebound and raced down the floor to draw a foul. We don't see that a lot from Killa. Cash has been carrying the team through SK's shooting slump, but 23 did the work that needed to be done for the Bearcats to win last night. That's 2 of 3 games where he's shot well. A positive trend.
I don't know what's going on with JaQuon Parker, but he's been a turnover machine lately. He has 14 turnovers the last 4 games. He had 15 the first 14 games. Parker had 6 last night. With 0 assists. Maybe it's the pressure of handling the ball more when Cash is out of the game. Maybe it's that he travels on all of his moves and the officials only started calling it now. Hopefully he gets a handle on things.
Parker played well outside of that. He had 12 points on 5-10 shooting. He was 1-4 at the free throw line. He is at 55% from the stripe. Last year he hit 67.9%. That dramatic of a drop off is why he's only averaging a point and a half more than last year and his offensive rating is more than 4 points worse. It sounds like I'm really dogging on Parker. I don't mean to.
Park scored 9 in the first half. He has a trend of having big first halves and letting the other guys take over in the second.
Shaq Thomas returned to the rotation last night and responded with 4 points on 2-3 shooting in 10 minutes. That's about all he did.
Justin Jackson had a minor wrist injury that took him out of action for a while, but he returned for some second half minutes. He hit a pair of free throws, pulled in 4 rebounds, had an assist, blocked a shot and had 2 turnovers. Outside of making a pair of free throws, it was Justin Jackson doing all the Justin Jackson things to fill up a box score. There was no word on his injury, so hopefully he's cool.
Ge'Lawn Guyn played his most minutes since December 8 and did a pretty good job at filling in for Cash. Guyn had 7 points on 2-3 shooting, 3-4 from the foul line, and 2 rebounds. He had a pair of turnovers, but none of them late. He had 5 points with Cash out of the game in the second half. We might see him in an expanded role depending on how Mick manages Cash when he comes back.
Guyn had 3 fouls in the game. He's had at least 2 fouls in 8 games this season. That's nearly half of the games he's played. He sat out the St John's loss. He has nearly as many fouls as Cash does. He plays aggressive, you have to give him that.
Jermaine Sanders couldn't keep the hot streak going. He had just 2 points. He missed both of his 3 pointers. Sanders had 3 boards and 2 assists.
David Nyarsuk had 3 blocks. He had 2 points and 3 boards as well. Nyarsuk had an emphatic block late in the game. In hindsight, he probably could have caught the ball and started a break. But he didn't. It's probably not something people think about.
This was the first time every UC player scored since the West Virginia game last season. Thanks to Chris, aka cincykid12 for that fun fact.
Cleveland Melvin is awesome. He had 32 points on 14-20 shooting. UC had no one inside who could stop him. They rotated everyone on him. They went zone. Nothing could stop Melvin. He's a damn good player.
I said Brandon Young was pretty selfish last night. I think I should clarify. He took a lot of shots to get his points. 19 shots for 18 points. He had 5 turnovers to 4 assists. The last 7 seconds when he wasted the whole entire clock was poor. I know that DePaul has even less scorers than Cincinnati does so Young has to be that aggressive with the ball. I think he crossed the line to too ball hoggy. He did have 1 turnover in the second half.
DePaul took 35 shots the second half. 25 of them were by Young and Melvin. 13 of the 14 makes were by Young and Melvin. The rest of the guys went 1-10. I can see why Young shot so much.
This could be the last time Cincinnati travels to DePaul. Recent history hasn't had DePaul playing that great or beating Cincinnati that much. But the games have been surprisingly close. I remember the days of Richardson and Simmons and Q Greer and Delonte Holland. It'll be a little bittersweet giving up the ghost.
Photos via Cincinnati.com. Kilpatrick and Melvin photos via Go Bearcats.