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Bearcats still searching for complete game

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Cincinnati showed glimpses of a team that belongs in the NCAA tournament Sunday, but continues hunt down the elusive complete game.

 

CINCINNATI -- For eight minutes the game looked so easy. Rashad Bishop drained 3-pointers. Passes found open cutters in the lane. Defense kept St. John's frustrated and without a field goal.

 

In one of the season's biggest games, the Bearcats looked up to task.

 

Unfortunately for the Bearcats, the effort came too late, as it has far too often during this Big East season.

 

With six regular season games left, the time to show off the first complete game in Big East play is running out of time.

 

"We made so many mistakes that I am so disappointed in its really hard for me to describe right now," Mick Cronin said. "You always give credit to team that won the game, but we sure get an assist."

 

In a two-point game, it's easy to pick plays here or there that would have changed the game. Cronin has 32 minutes of them: from Bishop's lane violation to any of the 15 turnovers to whatever happened to Yancy Gates.

 

Cronin searched under the couch cushions to find five players willing to play hard, be patient and get back on defense. The time spent figuring out the combination were valuable minutes the Bearcats couldn't afford to lose.

 

In the end, it's the reason they did.

 

"It's a miracle we had a chance to win the game," Cronin said.

 

Because of eight spectacular minutes down the stretch the Bearcats almost overcame the mistakes of the first 32.

 

Sean Kilpatrick thought the defensive stops fueled the run. Holding a team without a field the goal the final 8:57 is a good way to close a deficit. Much of that can be attributed to Bishop. Known for his defense, he continued to deliver in that area. Yet, when he hit two 3-pointers, attacked the lane to get to the line and dished a smooth assist he became the driving force behind the comeback.

 

"I saw people starting to get down so I thought I would pick up my energy," Bishop said.

 

Bishop's game, in many ways, served as a microcosm of UC's. For all the positive plays and energy lift he provided during the push to take the lead, the game will be more remembered for his slow start and critical mistake.

 

Bishop scored two points with two turnovers in the first half. He was busted jumping into the lane on Malik Boothe's missed front end of the one-and-one.

 

He's the perfect symbol of the latest "Yeah, but" game for the Bearcats.   

 

"He's one guy who will play hard for you," Cronin said, then jumping to the inevitable conclusion to Bishop's evaluation. "He made a huge mistake, obviously."

 

St. John's coach Steve Lavin knew the UC run was coming. In the middle of the second half, he stood in the middle of his timeout huddle and warned them as such. In retelling the moment and staying true to his broadcasting roots, he put a perfect analytical phrase on the Bearcats.

 

"I tried to give warnings of what they are capable of doing," Lavin said.

 

Indeed, UC is capable of doing so much. They've shown that. Doing it for 40 minutes against top competition continues to be the missing piece.

 

Antoher opportunity comes to Fifth Third Arena on Wednesday along with the Louisville Cardinals. Turning eight minutes into 40 then will go along way to erasing nightmares of Sunday's first 32.

 

"You still got more games," Bishop said. "We are in the Big East, every game in the Big East is tough. That loss will be eliminated with a couple more wins."

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