Justin Jackson brought the same antics everyone has come to expect of him this season, but his latest exhibition in efficiency in Wednesday's win against Campbell showcased how he can change the UC offense.
CINCINNATI - At no spot on the Fifth Third Arena Floor would the basketball be safe from the grasp of Justin Jackson.
No matter the time of the game or margin on the scoreboard, the Jackson trampoline circus could be coming your way - press row included.
With the Bearcats cruising by 18 over the Camels in the final minutes Tuesday, Jackson stepped into a Superman leap into press row harpooning a stage director in the shoulder like a linebacker preventing a first down. He rolled onto the ground and the ball remarkably tossed back into play.
Never has a moment existed Jackson didn't play with this energy. Third grade, middle school, high school - all the same.
"I was the guy that fouled out in the first three minutes," he said.
Joining Mick Cronin's team certainly didn't change his attitude. No lead can be too large and no moment too small to not take out a few lowly scribes in the name of hustle.
"No," he said. "Not being on Mick's team."
This behavior is nothing new for the senior from Cocoa Bearch, Fla. His penchant for blocks and dives, #MeanFace and #SlightlyLessMeanFace, doesn't surprise the masses at home. They only make the crowd cheer louder.
After he sprinted out of the rubble behind press row Wednesday the chant from the student section whipped up one more time.
"Justin Jackson! Justin Jackson!"
All part of a day's work for Mr. Excitement. Perhaps what should elicit chants and cheers more than spiking a basketball off the backboard, should be the efficient post moves he's illustrated through four games this season.
He finished the 81-62 victory with a career high in points (19) and a career low in fouls (1). Only one more rebound would have equaled a double-double. The most impressive number would be his efficiency. Jackson connected on 9 of 12 shots as a key component to the team setting a new Mick Cronin Era record of 63.2 percent shooting.
Jackson used a left-handed baby hook, broke across the lane with the right hand and spun in toward the bucket for two.
Nobody will be drawing comparisons to Karl Malone just yet, but every moment of competence in the post means another step toward developing the inside-out offense that could accelerate this Bearcats team from good to great.
"Like to get to the point we can run a lot of offense through him," Cronin said. "Trust him with the basketball. One of the things I believe in is you can't ask guys to do things they haven't done before. Before we get to a certain point in our season got to get him touches in the post so he can get a comfort level in live action."
When season progresses where the Camels give way to the Cardinals, Jackson's moves won't be met with such little resistance. For now, however, the comfort in his post game offers another offensive option for a team showcasing noticeable improvements in ball movement and shot selection from a year ago.
Even after the best statistical game of Jackson's career, Cronin insisted he should have been better.
"He had a couple lazy plays," Cronin said.
Rarely are Jackson and lazy mentioned in the same sentence, but the entire team drew Cronin's ire in a frustrated postgame session. The talking points stemmed from boxing out to mental lapses to lacking effort.
That's why diving into press row in the middle of a blowout, even if that means jeopardizing health with a win already in the bag will not just be acceptable around here.
"It's expected," Jackson said.
For a guy whose found himself in the front row more than any booster, Jackson also knows what's expected in terms of courtesy. That's why he returned to the court after the game to check on the stage manager he bulldozed into the ground.
"When I fell into the lady and my hand went through the chair (my thumb) got a little jam," he said. "I apologized to her to make sure she was OK."
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