Not much good came out of UC's 67-51 loss to No. 8 Louisville on Monday, but the most efficient offensive night since a knee injury for Cashmere Wright could mean he's beginning to turn the corner just in time for the postseason.
LOUISVILLE -- Cashmere Wright may be 178 pounds while holding two bowling balls all while serving as a walking, talking commercial for athletic training, but night after night he takes a bantam-weight body into the heavyweight division of Big East basketball.
He's done so for four years and suffered every injury imaginable along the way. None has proven more difficult to heal than his broken shot over the last 10 games.
Even in the dark shadows of a 16-point defeat at Louisville (25-5, 13-4) Monday, a silver lining poked through in the form of his most effective, efficient offensive performance since that dreadful day in Chicago.
His first shot of the night, buried from the top of the key. He quickly followed with another. The excitable Yum! Center silenced. Perhaps, many Bearcats fans did as well, not wanting to talk, move or change any luck leading to signs of life from the season's most confounding development.
Only, as always lives in the footnotes of Wright's frustrating senior year, success seems to arrive hand-in-hand with pain. On this night, it was Wright popping his shoulder out and needing to return it to the rightful socket at halftime.
Cronin estimated that's the sixth time he's dislocated his shoulder this season. Six.
"Just something you deal with," Wright said. "After the season I will get it taken care of but right now I don't have time so you just keep pushing."
He pushed Saturday, but Cronin admitted he wasn't the same after haltime. Although, even through the pain he also wasn't the same as he's been the last month. He was definitively better.
After hitting a silky jumper over a Louisville defender midway through the second half, he swung a low fist pump and focused clap. Two fast-break jumpers in rhythm later and Wright resembled a December version of himself.
He finished 6 of 11 for 15 points, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range. Not only was this the second-most points he's scored since the injury but far and away his best shooting night. He hasn't shot better than 35 percent from the field since hurting his knee and not better than 33 percent from deep. Remarkable, considering he lingered around 45 percent from downtown leading up to that moment.
Entering a March where his turnaround will be more vital than any other variable for the Bearcats (20-10, 8-9), this could have been an encouraging sign on a not-so-encouraging evening.
"We lost, that's the only thing that mattered," Wright said. "My shot is coming on, but everybody kept saying keep shooting. It's all about confidence and doing what your teammates ask you. Just getting more comfortable. Legs starting to feel better, moving around and the injury was starting to feel better."
Of course, with one healing injury comes another. As if a certain degree of difficulty always must exist.
"If he can stay healthy, I got confidence in him," Cronin said.
Wright admitted last week his health continues to improve and the confidence his knee will respond the way he'd like it to reached levels not seen since the DePaul game.
The final hurdle for him, he explained, would be finding a way to put consecutive quality halves together. Spurts of success showed up over the frustrating journey back to normal. They nearly always be quickly replaced by another disappointing drought.
Even through the pain of his shoulder injury, he managed to achieve his goal of stringing together a full game. Certainly, he'd love to see his zero assists and three turnovers switch places, but he was far from the lone culprit in a game where 21 UC turnovers held as the only stat truly worth mentioning in Cronin's postgame media gaggle.
Perhaps, that's all most Bearcats players, coaches and fans will take out of the final true Big Monday game ever. Or perhaps, as he walked toward team bus with ice wrapped around his shoulder, the pendulum has begun to swing back in the positive direction for Wright and this disappointing loss will be spotted as the turning point. We'll find out more on Saturday' Senior Night, but it certainly would be much more important than any regular season loss.
I want to hear from you! Send me any questions, comments or let me know how quickly you would snap to the fetal position if you had to pop your shoulder into socket six times in three months. Send email to email@example.com or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.