The Morning After: UC 60, Louisville 56

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There is no other place to start this morning than with the hostile atmosphere created last night at Fifth Third Arena. Whether home players and coaches, visiting players and coaches, media, it didn't matter. Everyone agreed that was one of the rowdiest environments seen this college basketball season.

The second sellout of the season decked out in black felt so much like the 90s, I kept waiting for Damon Flint to sub in.

Zac Jackson, national columnist for Fox Sports, said it was the loudest arena he's been in all season.

Rick Pitino offered this: "It was a great crowd for them. Certainly, the best home court advantage we've seen this year."

Mick Cronin: "The crowd was off the charts. They're the difference in a game like that."

Yancy Gates chimed in as well: "We love it. This is college basketball. You don't get that when you are done with college."

When a crowd makes the building shake like UC fans did last night, this team becomes exponentially more difficult to beat. Cronin talks all the time -- and did again last night -- about his team learning to play great defense being the difference between reaching a level of success or falling short. Defense, essentially, comes down to effort and energy. Crowds like that pump enough adrenaline through the Bearcats that they could play another 40 minutes when the game ends. Especially with this team, pumping that energy through them goes a long way.

Congrats. Any recruit in the building or at home watched that building and had to think, "That looks like a great place to play college basketball."

Here are the game highlights via ESPN/Big East

DixonDunk.jpgLet's eat...

--- One of the more interesting storylines to develop as the game went along Thursday was the treatment of Chane Behanan.

The Louisville freshman at one point committed to Mick Cronin and UC. He's a Cincinnati kid, having played his high school basketball at Aiken before transferring to Bowling Green (Ky.) after his sophomore season. He was a McDonald's All-American.

Last night, he was a despised enemy. While Behanan shot free throws, students chanted "Cincy Hates You, Cincy Hates You."

Asked after the game, if he heard what the crowd was chanting at Behanan, Rick Pitino stated that he couldn't understand them. When told by a reporter what they were saying, he snapped back with this:

"I don't think he likes them, either," he said. "Tell them it's mutual."

It didn't quite end there as Behanan offered a response of his own.

"That's the most electric I have seen since I used to come to the games when I was younger," he said to RapidReporter Evan Hilbert. "I've never heard it that loud. I don't know if it's because I came back and everybody hates me. It's all part of college basketball. It was fun."

Behanan finished with 11 points and seven rebounds and, as you can see above, did end up on one Cincinnati poster before he left town. Dion Dixon -- cloaked in nasty.

--- Pitino was far from happy with the referees or some of the fans following the game. Jeff Borzello at CBSSports explains in this blog.

--- No update on injured guard JaQuon Parker from Cronin after the game. He only said he hoped Parker would be able to play Sunday at USF.

Cronin has said before that Parker is the key to being able to run the four-guard offense, they can't run it without him. Nobody else on the team can handle the ball well and power for rebounds among the bigs. He came out and warmed up at halftime and was on the bike for some of the second half staying loose, but obviously, Cronin didn't want to chance aggravating the injury.

--- There was only one way UC could win with Parker out. They needed Justin Jackson to play one of the best halves of his career. Did he ever.

After only playing two minutes and picking up two quick fouls in the first half, he played 18 minutes in the second half grabbing six rebounds with a block and a steal.

Jackson would soar toward the baseline above the rim and grab rebounds over top of everybody on the floor. I've never seen anything like it -- at least from Jackson. Neither has Cronin.

"Justin Jackson was awesome for us in the second half," he said. "He was above the rim, as explosive as I have seen him. He took our defnse and our defensive rebounding to another level."

--- RPI update: The worst metric in sports moved UC up from 82 to 74. They are now 5-3 against the RPI Top 50.

A couple more stats courtesy Lance McAlister. Only 15 teams have more Top 50 wins than UC. Only seven teams have more Top 25 wins than UC (3).

This directly from his blog:

Only 7 teams have more Top 25 RPI wins than UC (3)
5- Syracuse, Michigan St, Kentucky,
4-Kanasa, Ohio State, Notre Dame
3-Cincinnati, Michigan, Missouri, Georgetown, Temple, Indiana, Kansas St, New Mexico, Illinois, Tennessee
Xavier 1, Louisville 2, West Virginia 1

Only 15 teams have more Top 50 RPI wins than UC (5)
9-Kansas, Michigan St, Michigan
8-Notre Dame, Syracuse
7-Duke, Baylor, Georgetown, Ohio State
6-Missouri, Kentucky, North Carolina, Indiana, Louisville, UConn
5-Cincinnati, Purdue, Wisconsin, Kansas St, UNLV, Marquette
Xavier 2, West Virginia 4

--- The Bearcats (20-8, 10-5) -- on the ropes not long ago -- are now tied for fourth place and the final double-bye spot in the Big East tournament. Here is a link to the standings.

They are tied with Georgetown and USF. A win at USF on Sunday would place UC in control of its own destiny for the double bye since they own the tiebreaker with the Hoyas. Plus, GT still has to play Notre Dame and at Marquette.

If UC beats USF and Nova, they almost certainly will own the four-seed.

--- Should the Cats grab the four-seed
and double bye consider where Big East four seeds have ended up in the NCAA tournament seeding the last four years.

2011: Syracuse -- 3
2010: Villanova -- 2
2009: Villanova -- 3
2008: UConn -- 4

Will that type of seed happen for UC? Almost certainly not, but the respect for this conference traditionally should place them in a good spot.

--- Leading scorer Kyle Kuric (12.9) and third-leading scorer Chris Smith (10.5) were a combined 0 for 16 from the field. They contributed six points.

For Yancy Gates, that was more than just an off night for Louisville's top shooters.

"When teams don't make shots there is a reason because the defense is making them uncomfortable, taking them out of what they are comfortable with. They didn't really get the open looks like they are normally used to getting."

--- Peyton Siva finishes at the bucket better than any PG I've seen all year.

"I got a lot of resepct for him," Cronin said. "His driving layups for 99 percent of guards are bad shots. For him they are good shots. He makes them."

--- Cashmere Wright has now hit 9 of his last 17 3-pointers.

"He wins every 3-point shooting drill we have," Cronin said. "He should shoot 40 percent or better from the 3-point line."

Actually, he is. He's at .398 for the year.

--- The good folks at Rush The Court updated their S-Curve today and seeded UC as a 9. They also had this to say about their case:

"Cincinnati is one of the more difficult teams to seed in recent memory. It really boils down to how much you believe the committee is going to weigh RPI/SOS relative to RPI top-50 wins. I tried to find a happy medium at a #9 seed. The Bearcats computer numbers are appalling (74 RPI, 114 SOS, 319 non-conference SOS) but no teams behind them in today's S-Curve boast the same abundance of quality wins: at Georgetown, Louisville, at Connecticut, Notre Dame, Seton Hall with a 6-4 true road record and a 10-5 mark in the Big East. That's an impressive portfolio for a supposed bubble team without even glimpsing at the RPI. One has to believe Cincinnati is in at 11-7."

--- Gates on if UC is a tournament team: "I think we are, but really we just focus on making this last push, finishing as strong as we can for the seed in the Big East tournament."

--- Stat of the night: Dion Dixon owns eight blocks in the last three games. He had seven through the first 25 games.

In fact, last night UC set a new Cronin Era record for blocks in a season with 131 for 4.5 a game. Last year in 34 games they blocked 129.

--- Quote of the night: Cashmere Wright on if he was comfortable with Yancy shooting two free throws to essentially put the game away after Cash missed badly on the front end of a one-and-one the previous possession:

"We had a drill in practice you had to make 10 in a row or we would sit in practice all day long. He made 10 in a row, so I was comfortable with him out there making them. Now, he shouldn't have been comfortable with me going up there."

--- One of my favorite moments from last night was in the middle of the 14-0 run, following the Dixon dunk on Chane Behanan, Pitino called time out and immediately Sandstorm showed up and the place went bonkers. I'm a sucker for perfect musical timing. So, here you go.

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