Can I start with anything other than how good Sean Kilpatrick can be?
There's really nothing else you can be saying to yourself walking out of Fifth Third Arena last night. As soon as he entered the game, the Bearcats surged. After his 5 for 5 night, he's now draining 50 percent of his 3-pointers. He's 13 of 26 on the season. It's been a while since anybody could make that statement.
I jumped into the topic of how Cronin is figuring out how to best utilize Kilpatrick. When he enters with the high energy group of Larry Davis and Justin Jackson where he has been around the 14-minute mark of the half, that group can brutalize teams that don't play their bench. That's what they did to the Raiders. Wright State was tired and that group took advantage.
I've always loved the concept of a lift-guy coming off the bench. It re-engergizes a team that may have a sluggish start and adds gas to the fire of a fast start.
--- Cashmere Wright got bumped in the head in the second half. Cronin took him out with 13:36 remaining in the game and didn't put him back in.
Wright was experiencing some dizzyness. Cronin didn't have an official word about his condition in the postgame, but didn't make it sound too serious. We'll likely get a better update at the media availability today.
--- JaQuon Parker was given an opportunity to fill in for Wright and just didn't play very well. Parker finished with 0 points, 2 rebounds and a turnover in seven minutes.
For UC to be the team they need to be, Parker needs to revert more to the form we saw in the second half of last season.
Thus far, he only has three assists through six games.
Cronin thinks Parker may be pressing.
"He trying too hard," Cronin said. "He's putting too much pressure on himself."
--- If this were Boy Scouts, Yancy Gates would earn the "Effing Warrior" patch last night.
Apparently, Gates was living on his bathroom floor with a sickness on Tuesday, couldn't get out of his apartment and hadn't been able to put any food down for the past two days.
What did he do?
He played 33 minutes with 10 points and 7 rebounds.
For anybody wondering if Gates cares this year, that's all you need to know. You can't tell me an effort like that doesn't rub off onto the rest of his team.
--- On top of that, Ibrahima Thomas was sick the past two days and miss Monday and Tuesday practice. The combination of those two being sick and the buzz following the Dayton game had Cronin a nervous wreck leading into the Wright State game.
"I was a wreck for a lot of reasons.
"We literally have had two bad practices because we hadn't had our main guys in there. It's hard to be comfortable with your preparation. Even with everybody healthy, if we hadn't been sick, I was going to be concerned.
--- Through six games, UC has had four different leading scorers. Sean Kilpatrick (2 solo, 1 shared), Yancy Gates (1 share, 1 solo), Dion Dixon 1, Cashmere Wright 1.
To me, that's the most encouraging point of this season on offense. The number of people who can lead the way on offense keep the team less susceptible from an off night. At some point, somebody gets hot.
Last year, if Lance didn't have it and Deonta couldn't hit shots, this team was going to struggle.
--- Bill Koch asked Cronin last night at what point he would start to be excited about being undefeated. He's now 6-0.
Cronin's really living day to day right now -- especially with the sitution of the past few days. He tempered his excitement, but then opened up a little bit more about why he's really enjoyed this team (something he's been saying since they returned from Canada).
"I'm having a lot of fun coaching these guys. It's nice to win games, don't'get me wrong. These guys have been very receptive to coaching. They've been great together, great with each other. Their listening has been great, their attitude has been great."
For him, it's all part of finally having a mature team where he had his hands on their development for four years. I know fans get a little beaten down into the ground with this stuff, but it is valid and particularly pertinent in explaining why the Bearcats appear to be playing harder, smarter and with more purprose this season.
"You got enough four-year guys," Cronin said. "Most coaches actually have guys who have played college basketball three and four years. We didn't have that for a long time because there was nobody on the team and there was junior college guys. As soon as those (junior college) guys got to the point they knew what to do, they were gone. It makes a huge difference."
--- Cronin raved about the effort of Larry Davis last night. He's notw played double-digit minutes in four of the six games. He had a season-high 20 minutes vs. Wright State.
He was really enjoying himself. Lots of clapping and playing to the crowd. At one point he ran right in front of me and was giving some sort of self congratulations forearm on forearm movement that I'm not familiar with. I'll have to ask him next time I talk to him.
Still, the question people most often ask me is why Davis plays so much and I can't say that I've really had much of an answer. He had seven points in five games leading into Wednesday and a 2:5 assist:turnover ratio.
But Cronin broached the Davis topic at length last night.
"Larry's improved in one area, he's always been a great defensive player. His energy is off the charts. He's always been a great defensive player. He's playing much smarter, that's the difference. That translates to better defense. Now his energy is focused. Secondly, he's also playing smart on offense. He had three assists, no turnovers. He doesn't come in feeling he has got to make shots to stay in the game. He's coming in playing as hard as he can with good focus on defense.
"He's given us great leadership. He told me last spring, coach I want to help us win."
"I told him, I said Larry what happens if you don't start, what happens if you don't score. Are you sure you're going to be OK with that? He said, 'Coach I just want to win. I want to graduate, I want to play in the NCAA tournament.' He's had that attitude and it permeates because you have a guy over there whose a senior who started as a younger player at times. He's accepting a role on our team. Not only is he accepting it, he's full steam ahead trying to embrace it. It matters. It rubs off. That has an affect on younger guys in our program."