Sean Kilpatrick picked the right time to bust out of his shooting slump, but it only reinforced the team attitude that has carried this team to 16-2 following Tuesday's win against Temple.
CINCINNATI --Grabbing and pulling a 3-pointer from the wing, Sean Kilpatrick fired off in rhythm. After it ripped the net for the latest of six three-pointers and the defining moment in the game's defining run, he turned around toward the Fifth Third Arena crowd behind him and let out a scream.
His Bearcats struggled Tuesday night. Mick Cronin called it the worst first half of the season and afterward referred to it as about the most unintelligent game they'd played all year.
Temple erased a double-digit deficit and led by two. That would be previously 5-9, 0-4 playing without their starting point guard and only seven scholarship players, Temple.
And here was Kilpatrick. Made only four of his last 33 shots from deep asking anyone on staff for an idea how to bust out of this slump, Kilpatrick.
A developing storyline during UC's ascension to No. 19 in the country had been winning games despite ugly shooting. Whispers began of regressing from the 40-plus percent shooting that marked the early season to the 30.6 percent that clouded a disappointing junior campaign.
Only, with each passing 3 that found the net, including two and an assist on another by Jermaine Sanders, Kilpatrick reminded everyone why he's a preseason Wooden and Naismith Top 50 selection. And reminded why he's climbing the charts to a likely spot as the second-leading scorer in Cincinnati history.
Kilpatrick saves the day. Not the first time, but after missing 29 of 33 shots, remembering the last time can be the challenge.
And in this moment, as he enjoyed the return of his shot with 9,864 of his closest friends Tuesday, he couldn't help but celebrate by letting out a cathartic yell and head nod.
"Yeah, it's funny because today in walk through I was actually shooting and it was actually falling. I told Ge'Lawn (Guyn), man, I feel like I'm back. He said, 'you never left, I don't know what you are talking about.' But it was good to hit some shots today to help my team win."
Justin Jackson followed up Kilpatrick's statement with a confused look. On a campus where half the student body owns a No. 23 jersey, No. 5 would be considered his biggest fan.
"He don't miss in walk through," Jackson said.
That's the thing about shooting slumps for the team's heart, soul, leader and leading scorer. Misses can tailspin without support. Through all the misses and frustrations, Jackson leads the charge reminding Kilpatrick to keep shooting.
Nobody challenges Jackson's relentlessness both on the court and in supporting his teammate. There will be no concerns about a slump.
"I'm not letting that happen," Jackson said.
For Kilpatrick, the man playing with the weight of this team's success on his shoulders, relief and confidence on the court makes all the difference in attempting to leave a slump behind.
"Out of everybody he is on me the hardest, like, man you got to keep shooting," Kilpatrick said. "He says it don't matter how it hits, where it goes, if you shoot it and miss it I am going to get the rebound and throw it back to you. That's something I am happy for when it comes down to him being able to give him that kind of confidence."
Nobody can assure the support of Jackson and his teammates greased the wheels to Kilpatrick's 23 points on 6 of 13 shooting from deep. Nobody can assure this wasn't just the law of averages swinging back in favor of a talented shooter. Nobody can assure this wasn't the product of shots suddenly opening up when Titus Rubles cracked Temple's frustrating zone from the high post.
All those would be speculation and theory.
What can be assured from anybody within earshot of Kilpatrick's emotional scream during Tuesday's victory was that, for Kilpatrick, breaking out of this shooting slump sure felt damn good.
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