The Bearcats take care of business against physically overmatched Indiana University Southeast in the team's final exhibition, 91-63.
CINCINNATI -- Teams aren't supposed to be outrebounded, 66-30. The Bearcats did on Tuesday night against
That pertinent statistic lingers somewhere between unfair and immoral.
But, when owning a 50-pound or six-inch advantage on the defender, it's reality. The Bearcats offset the Jazz Ferguson showcase with a 54-16 bludgeoning in the paint best set to the soundtrack from 300.
The second half was laced with botched dunk attempts and ESPN highlights gone wrong - the type of sloppiness to be expected in an exhibition rout against an NAIA school.
In the end, the final tally would be 91-63, home team. Or, more precisely, with this type of talent mismatch -- what's to be expected.
Fluid offensive movement distributed to ball to four players in double figures on 22 assists. Cashmere Wright thrived by pushing tempo on his way to 10 points and four assists. Ibrahima Thomas filled the lane while scoring nine of his team-high 21 points during a 20-5 first-half run. Yancy Gates dunked. Dion Dixon continued to impress (15 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds). Justin Jackson played with the relentless energy of a two-year old on a Pixy Stix bender.
Everyone shared the ball and the love with enough excitement and happiness you expected Double Rainbow Guy to play point guard in garbage time.
"Guys are getting more focused," said Thomas, who added eight rebounds. "We get to the point that nobody worries about who scores or who is the leading scorer. You look at the way we play. We got four guys in double figures. That is just the way we play. We don't worry about who scores or who has the most points."
All is well. All is happy. Of course, it's hard not to be when beating up on inferior opponents in exhibitions.
The game changes on Monday.
"I'm just excited to start the season," Mick Cronin said of the regular season opener against Mount St. Mary's. "Our approach is always to play hard, share the ball. We have more guys that can score. We have more veterans we have a deeper team, a better team."
It appears that way to this point, but the Bearcats haven't accomplished anything yet. Their record still stands at 0-0. Most pundits across the country still see them on the outside looking into the NCAA tournament picture.
Wins against a team from
Encouraging signs came at every turn over the past few months. Optimism flows from each corner of Fifth Third Arena.
Even statistics that gave this team fits last year - like going 8 of 35 over the two exhibitions from behind the 3-point arc - were met without concern by Cronin.
"I'm not concerned with our outside shooting at all," he said. "Our footwork wasn't good tonight. We shoot the ball well; we have shot the ball well since the first day we started practicing. I am more concerned with our shot selection."
Cronin appears as outwardly optimistic about this team than any during his tenure. This version owns the capability to make a splash in the Big East and return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since Cronin took over.
Of course, so did last year's.
Cronin and the 15 players in his locker room believe this season will be different. The overwhelming wins in two glorified practices infer they are well grounded.
Though, that's what was expected.
Thankfully, the wait to begin peeling away at the real truth sits only six days away.