Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 2/26/14
Keeping Justin Jackson out of foul trouble has been an issue for the University of Cincinnati Bearcats ever since he arrived on campus in 2010. The high-energy Jackson is so quick and athletic that he tries to block every shot and seize every rebound. At times that exuberance gets him in foul trouble and sends him prematurely to the bench, causing all sorts of problems for the Bearcats, who have come to rely so heavily on his inside production as a complement to the outside work of senior guard Sean Kilpatrick. “It’s nothing new,” UC coach Mick Cronin said Tuesday. “It’s been going on for four years. With some players, their strength is their weakness. Anybody that’s an aggressive rebounder is always in risk of foul trouble. Always.” Jackson, UC’s 6-foot-8 senior center, averages 11.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocked shots. He’s had an outstanding season, which is proof that he has done a better job of staying on the floor this season as his role has been increased and he has come to understand his importance to the 11th-ranked Bearcats’ success. But he has reverted in recent games to his habit of picking up two fouls in the first half, which invariably prompts Cronin to send him to the bench for the rest of the half in an effort to preserve him for the second half. When UC lost to Louisville last Saturday, Jackson needed just over two minutes to pick up his second foul, forcing the Bearcats to play without their second-best player for nearly an entire half against one of the best teams in the country. But Cronin urged UC fans to not be too hard on Jackson based on what happened against Louisville. “He’s done a great job this year of managing his fouls,” Cronin said. “Saturday was a terrible occurrence for us. He knows that. I can assure Bearcat fans that nobody was more upset with Justin than Justin. He didn’t leave the arena for an hour and a half after the game. It took our entire coaching staff and his parents to console him. That’s how upset he was.” The Louisville game was the most extreme example of Jackson’s struggle with fouls, but there have been other recent occurrences. Against Houston on Feb. 15, he picked up his second foul with 14:56 left in the first half. He fouled out of UC’s loss at SMU on Feb. 8 after picking up his second foul with 6:14 left in the first half. And he picked up two first-half fouls at Central Florida on Feb. 19. Cronin and his coaches have addressed the issue with Jackson, but there’s a fine line for a player like Jackson to walk. If he becomes too focused on staying out of foul trouble, he risks losing the aggressiveness that has made him the American Athletic Conference’s top shot blocker. “From a coaching standpoint, we try to prepare him, teach him and talk to him,” Cronin said. “That is being done and was done. I wouldn’t get too caught up in one game. We’ve played 28 games. SK had a couple of games where he couldn’t throw it in the ocean from the beach. That’s why it’s a team sport and you’ve got to be there for your teammates.”
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