The Bearcats defense left another lasting impression on an opponent Saturday and has eyes on being the best defense in the country.
CINCINNATI --For the final 11:45 of Saturday's 71-51 win against Rutgers the Bearcats didn't allow a single field goal.
The Scarlet Knights scored three points, all on free throws. A game within striking distance spread to the latest reason to believe in the 2013-14 Bearcats.
Though, the reason sounds the same as it always has around Fifth Third Arena. Mick Cronin and the Bearcats will win games when their best shooter clangs nine of 10 3-pointers off the rim. When their second-leading scorer spends half the game locked to the bench in foul trouble. When they turn the ball over 14 times.
"The answer for us is defense," Cronin said. "Our goal is to be the best defensive team in the country."
More suffocations like the final 12 minutes Saturday make that goal more than motivational chatter.
Following Saturday's games they rank fourth in the country in adjusted defense (points allowed per possession). They rank in the top 10 in turnover percentage, 2-point shooting percentage defense, block percentage and steal percentage.
It's now been 24 consecutive games the Bearcats held a team under 70 points -- the longest streak in the nation.
Stats don't tell the defensive story. The frustration on the faces of players like Wally Judge and Myles Mack do.
"That's what this program is based upon," Sean Kilpatrick said. "For the five years I have been around it's been just about defense and you can't win games if your defense isn't on point. That's really our bread and butter. That's what we get our points off of and we turn people over."
The length and athleticism of press wears teams down and by the time they reach the last quarter of the game exhausted bodies make poor decisions. They take bad shots. Or in the case of Rutgers, they don't muster a single field goal.
Even on a day when the press wasn't working as Rutgers ran out to 12 fast break points in the first half, Cronin realized his mistake and backed off the press to keep the Knights in front of them after halftime. Rutgers shot 23.1 percent after the break.
This isn't the first time and won't be the last.
Repeatedly, UC has forced one of the worst offensive outputs from opponents. In fact, of the nine opponents from a major conference this season, all have been held to one of their three worst scoring outputs of the year.
Rutgers, Memphis and Pitt were held to their lowest. Here's the results.
The number test and eye test have UC believing this could be the top defense in the country and probably the best of the Mick Cronin Era. Around Cincinnati, where defense defines every practice, workout and game, that's saying something.
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