The Bearcats only scored 52 points against St. John's, but Mick Cronin's concerns going forward revolve around hustle to grab rebounds and effort on the defensive end more than an inconsistent offense.
By Ashley Davis/Special to GoBearcats.com
The Bearcats started the season with 12 straight wins largely because of their hustle and ability to play with high intensity, especially on the defensive side. However, a lack of intensity hurt them in their home Big East opener on Saturday, a 53-52 loss to St. John's.
"We got outplayed [for] 35 minutes," head coach Mick Cronin said emphatically in his postgame press conference. "We had one and a half guys come to play today. When that happens, you're going to lose."
The one and a half guys Cronin referred to were Cashmere Wright and Titus Rubles. Wright led the Bearcats with 23 points, 10 rebounds and tied Oscar Robertson for fourth on the all-time career assists list. Rubles showed some life late in the game, scoring 11 of his 14 points in the second half.
Although Cash played impressively, he knows the team as a whole got outplayed in almost every aspect.
"Point blank, they just beat us to every loose ball," he said. "Every rebound that came off, that got tipped, they got it. They just outplayed us."
Cronin saw three specific areas that can use improvement for future games: defense, rebounding and turnovers.
"We gave up 34 points in the paint and only scored 18, we got out rebounded and we had 11 turnovers in the first half," he said. "That's the three things that matter."
He might be most upset about his team's ability, or lack thereof, to rebound. He obviously wasn't happy about the fact his point guard had the most offensive rebounds.
"I got Justin, Cheikh, Titus, Dave and Kelvin [with a] combined two offensive rebounds," he said. "Cashmere Wright's got three. That's the problem."
Sloppy turnovers also hurt the team. Whether it was passes out of bounds, traveling or stepping on the sideline, the Bearcats seemed careless with the ball and it came back to bite them in the form of easy transition layups by the Red Storm.
"There's no excuse to have nine turnovers at Pittsburgh and have 16 at home, other than one and a half guys came to play," Cronin said.
Cronin sees turnover mistakes, but fans might be inclined to blame Sean Kilpatrick's shooting slump for the Bearcats' lack of offense. He struggled to make shots at Pittsburgh last Monday and continued to struggle against St. John's, shooting 3-14 from the floor, including an un-Kilpatrick-like 0-5 from three-point range.
However, Cronin's not worried about SK's shooting going forward. He's more concerned about SK's defense.
"[Kilpatrick] gave no support on the best player in the Big East with the game on the line," Cronin said. "That's what I'm worried about."
The high-intensity, in-your-face defense Cincinnati is known for made an appearance late in the second half when the Red Storm did not score for five consecutive minutes, from 7:01 to 1:59. But for the most part, it was almost non-existent.
Cronin knows the defensive intensity needs to return for the entire game against Notre Dame and he will most certainly preach that to his team between now and 6:30 on Monday night. It's just up to the players to respond.
"We better become a really good defensive team again and a really good rebounding team or we'll be in trouble Monday night," Cronin said. "Welcome to college basketball. The team that plays really hard, plays defense and rebounds is probably going to win. That's the reality."