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The Morning After: UC 74, USF 66

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Wednesday went about as close to the expected script as possible. USF did what it does, plays just bad enough to lose. UC did what it does, forced turnovers and beat the teams it should.

Yet another single-digit loss for the Bulls. Their run of all 12 losses except for Villanova coming by double digits is shifting from coincidence to remarkable. That has to be the most frustrating season you could imagine for the Bulls fan base (whoever that is, anyway, can't imagine spending many nights attending Bulls games with all the other options in Tampa/St. Pete). Of course, I would go just to watch Augustus Gilchrist and Jawanza Poland.

UC did a nice job on Gilchrist, but it's clear why Mick Cronin called him the "best NBA prospect in our league." His post moves are polished and he can do it all on the court at 6-10, 245. Oh, and Poland only delivered the No. 6 play of the night on Sportscenter. Nasty baseline dunk on Gates.

--- Theme of the postgame was find a way to win, get the win, move on. Wednesday wasn't pretty, but it really doesn't  matter at this point. Worry about aesthetics in practice.

That's what I wrote about in my postgame column. You can read it here.

--- Stan Heath came away sold on the Bearcats -- his own team, well, not so much.

Heath looked like a man beaten down and resigned to the fact his team won't be figuring it out anytime soon.

"I don't' think we played particularly great, not that we played great all year long, but we had some miscues with the turnovers. Some, I understand, some were a little bit baffling to me, we just gave the ball away."

 

These jobs in the bottom of the Big East are so tough. Trying to work your way up in this conference you are constantly spinning your wheels. Heath must still be smarting over Dominique Jones bolting for the NBA. Cronin said he thought USF would be a top 25 team with Jones. I wouldn't disagree there. They are one guard away.

Seeing Heath attempt to build up the Bulls should give a greater appreciation for the distance Cronin has brought this program already. Regardless of what happens this year, even moving from the bottom of the league to the middle of the pack is one of the most difficult journeys in college hoops.

Which brings me back to what Heath said about the Bearcats. He went ahead and answered the national perception question without being prompted.

"Boy, they are better. They are better than what we faced the last few years. Mick has done a nice job. They got better chemistry, they defend a lot better. They also are very phsycial and with size they have it creates problems for you.

 

"Cincinnati is going to be a formidable opponent throughout the league the rest of the year. I think they are for real. I really do." 

 

--- I wrote a little about Sean Kilpatrick in the post column, obviously, I wasn't alone. He was the star of the show. Joe Kay said it well in his AP story.

The 12-2 UC run where Kilpatrick accounted for every hoop was something special. He seems to be asserting his offense in that manner more often. He's starting to feel the flow of the games better and understanding when the team needs him. He did against Nova and vs. USF. No other player on on the team can take it over the way he does.

UC was shooting 3-pointer after 3-pointer early on. They were 1 for 8 through the first 12 minutes of the game from deep. Then Kilpatrick started to attack.  

"I took it upon myself and coach was telling us we were settling too much. When you are settling too much you let the team ease into games."

KenPom has him with the third-best offensive rating on the team. Dion Dixon and Rashad Bishop are better. Dixon can take over a game the way Kilpatrick does, but SK is more consistent from the field (46%-43%).

--- Paul Daugherty wrote that Kilpatrick needs to play more minutes. Doc makes good points. I think everyone would like to see SK in the 23-28 minute range every game. His talent/potential dictate that. But until he shows more consistency offensively, his minutes won't be as consistent. The trend with him is pretty clear. He's either hitting shots and attacking offensively, or he's completely absent.

Sure, he scored 21, 14, 11 and 18 points in four of the last seven games. What happened the other three? 0, 2, 0.

When Kilpatrick is affecting the game positively and hitting shots, he typically gets his minutes. He probably could have played more against Seton Hall, but outside of that, he played 23 last night, 25 when he was hot against St. Francis, 28 when he dropped a season-high in points against Wright State and 24 minutes in the opener against Mount St. Mary's.

I think Doc's right, Kilpatrick does need more minutes. I also think if he can avoid a few more disappearing acts, those will come.   

--- Kilpatrick wasn't alone, Darnell Wilks saved the Bearcats down the stretch by attacking the basket and dropping free throws. He finished with 12 points and a perfect 8 of 8 from the FT line.

Cronin called it "Wilks best game of the year." 

Outscoring an opponent 39-27 off the bench doesn't hurt.

"I have a theory on that, everyone has got (a bench)," Cronin said. "You have 13 scholarships. You got to play them. I get asked a lot of questions early in the season why you play this guy, why you play that guy. Trying to develop your style of play and devleop your bench so you reap the benefits of it down the road. It's a long season."   

--- Dixon played well in the first half. He had nine points and six rebounds. He admitted to being under the weather on Twitter before and after the game.

I have to apologize, because I heard midday yesterday that Davis could start over top of him. I don't know how close that was to actually happening but I put it out there and I shouldn't have. I'm not perfect, but should have been better than that. 

That said, pretty gutty showing by Dixon.

--- Rashad Bishop collected a technical foul midway through the first half. The crowd didn't know what happened, the media didn't know what happened. After the game, Cronin still had no idea what happened.

"Nobody knows what happened," Cronin said. "I'm confused." 

--- Justin Jackson with his second straight strong game. He played 22 minutes against Villanova and a nice 10 minutes Wednesday. He contributed two steals, a block and an assist. More importantly, only one foul. He caused Cronin headaches earlier this season with silly fouls that put UC in trouble.

"It's real simple, he's been listening," Cronin said. "He's been very coachable. He fouled agaisnt Xavier, he got to play a whopping one minute. I took him out trying to teach him a lesson. If you keep reaching in at halfcourt fouling people putting them in the bonus I am not going to play you. He wants to play, that kid. One thing about him, he loves to play some basketball now. I tried to take that away from him to maybe get his attention. Since then he's been great." 

UC pretty badly needed his help. If Thomas continues to get into foul trouble, they need guys like Jackson and Wilks to be able to consistently fill quality minutes from the four spot.

--- The Bearcats forced 18 turnovers and allowed 8 assists. They have forced more turnovers than assists allowed in every game this season. No other team in the country has that long of a streak. 

--- UC moves on to Syracuse on Saturday. How good are they? You know that St. John's team that was rolling with wins against Notre Dame, Providence and Georgetown?

Cuse just ran them over by 17 at Madison Square Garden. And it wasn't that close.

--- Unlike Villanova, the Cuse (17-0) are susceptible to losing at home. They, obviously, are perfect there this season, but last year they lost to both Pitt and Louisville there when both were unranked.

They also have a huge game against Pitt coming up on Monday, so they could be looking ahead.

Of course, they beat then No. 8 Michigan State and then No. 15 Notre Dame by double digits there already this season -- so take it all with a grain of salt.

--- UC still has two games against Georgetown which looked daunting at one time, that is, until they turned into a dumpster fire.

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