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Between two games: Analyzing UC at MSG

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UC beats Providence, here's all the information you need:






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The Bearcats continue to be as comfortable in New York as a $12 cocktail. With their 61-44 victory against Providence on Wednesday they won at least one game in the Big East tournament for the fourth consecutive season. Unless Notre Dame wins their opener tonight, UC will be the only team in the conference to have accomplished that feat. 

They are 6-3 in the BET the last four years. 

The victory over the Friars didn't have as much to do with earning the win, rather how they did it. Mick Cronin tinkered with the lineup and personality to create a more uptempo, pressuring defense designed to keep teams out of rhythm. 

Instead of staying big when Cheikh Mbodj came off the floor, he decided to go small and aggressive by leaving David Nyarsuk/Kelvin Gaines on the bench and opting to move Justin Jackson to center with Shaq Thomas seeing increased minutes at the 4 spot. 

The move added an offensive weapon when Thomas can grab eight rebounds as he did, not much is lost on the glass. Going deep into the bench and not being afraid to run serves as a change in philosophy and one that fit the team well in the win. 

"We just tried to evaluate some things of how we wanted to play in the postseason," Cronin said. "Just wanted to be a faster team, more athletic team. Tried to get us in full-court mode, attack mode. We are just a better team when we play that way."

Indeed. Not only that, but receiving production from Thomas (5 points, 8 rebounds) and Mbodj (8 points, 7 rebounds, 5 blocks) changed the dynamic of the entire team. 

Cronin was well aware of Thomas' effect on the game: "Best game he's ever played for us."

--- Elsewhere, Sean Kilpatrick spent more time attacking the basket and less time bombing 3-pointers than in previous games. It led to on of his more efficient efforts. 

For only the third time in Big East play more than 50 percent of his shots came from inside the arc. He finished 6 of 16 from the field and 2 of 6 from long range. He canned two critical and-1 drives to the lane, including one late that put the game away. 

--- Now, we'll see a repeat of last year's 2OT classic against Georgetown. The Hoyas come in as the No. 1 seed and fresh off an annihilation of Syracuse to win the Big East title. They haven't been perfect, however. They lost by 10 at Villanova the second-to-last game of the season and needed 2OT to beat UConn two games before that. 

The last time these two met, UC led 51-50 with seven minutes remaining before eventually losing 62-55. In that game they went 4 of 24 from 3-point range and missed 13 free throws (17 of 30). Without doubt, a game they could have won. Even with average shooting they would have won. 

Another effort like the one given Wednesday and they will certainly have a chance. 

--- The Bearcats historically have been good slowing the Hoyas back-cutting offense and that's why they've enjoyed so much success against them of late. Prior to the Hoyas win earlier this year, UC ran off four consecutive victories against GT. 

Of course, this Hoyas team has won 12 of 13 and owns conference player of the year Otto Porter. 

"We know they are a great team but we are a great team as well especially when we are playing defense the way we are," Kilpatrick said. "We're a team that's hungry. We are  a team that is not going to back down from anyone. We are going to come out and give our best fight every night."

--- In the postseason since 2010 (Big East Tournament, NIT, NCAA) the Bearcats are 10-6, including a Sweet 16 and BET runner-up. 

--- Any residual bubble talk has burst. 

--- Of course, the discussion of the uniforms made for a hot topic, as the Dagger posted about here

--- Cronin never likes to leave a press conference without keeping them laughing. When the players were asked about the uniforms and the media took a shot at them, he pointed out how much his players like them. 

"If you guys were going to go out tonight, they wouldn't dress like you, either," he said. 

I want to hear from you! Send any questions, comments or predictions to pauldehnerjr@gmail.com or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr. 

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