March 17, 2017
By Bill Koch
SACRAMENTO – After being forced to the bench with early foul trouble in each of the University of Cincinnati’s last two games, Kyle Washington is determined not to let it happen again when the Bearcats open NCAA Tournament play on Friday against Kansas State.
“It was very frustrating but my coaches have told me the adjustments I need to make,” Washington said. “I felt bad personally because I wanted to just be there for my teammates, watching them and knowing that it would be better if I was out there, not even for the scoring, but just for my personality. I just wanted to be there. I felt bad that I let them down.”
UC coach Mick Cronin said Washington sometimes struggles in games that become what he called “a blood bath” because he doesn’t know the little tricks that some big men get away with play gets rough.
"He doesn’t know how to be sneaky with his aggression,” Cronin said.
The UC coaching staff has been working with Washington in recent days to avoid picking up silly fouls.
“I’m gonna be very conscious of that,” Washington said. “The best way to stay out of foul trouble is to have good positioning and don’t reach down. I’m gonna be focused on that.
"It’s a fine line to walk, but I think when I’m being smart and jumping to the ball at all times and understanding that I have to have great position, I think I’ll be fine.”
STRONG COMPETITION: Kansas State’s 21-13 record might seem pedestrian compared with UC’s 29-5, but the Bearcats fully understand that the Wildcats compiled that record playing in the Big 12, one of the most competitive leagues in the country.
“They work extremely hard and they come from a good league, so it’s not gonna be cupcake game,” Washington said. “We’re not expecting that at all. We’re not gonna be sleeping.”
Whether it’s demanding league schedule works to the Wildcats’ advantage remains to be seen.
“We used to do it,” Cronin said. “Sometimes you’d come out of the Big East back in the day and you’d worry that your team is beat up. It can work either way. For them, I think, they’ve had to kind of get on a run and keep winning to get to this thing. They’ve definitely been on a little bit of a run.”
TOUCH OF HOME: Golden 1 Center, the site of Friday’s UC-Kansas State game, is the home of the NBA Sacramento Kings, the descendants of the old Cincinnati Royals. To honor that connection, there are banners in the arena with the numbers of former Royals greats Oscar Robertson, Jack Twyman and Maurice Stokes. Robertson and Twyman’s retired UC numbers have hung for years on the south wall at Fifth Third Arena.
“That’s definitely neat,” said UC forward Jacob Evans. “Oscar comes to some of our games and watches us play. It’s kind of neat that his jersey is up there."
“I’m looking forward to seeing that,” Cronin said. “As a basketball fan growing up, I wish the Royals would have never left. That’ll be neat for our guys. For my dad, that’ll be the neatest, obviously with him graduating from UC in ’63, and seeing that stuff, it’s pretty cool. Maybe it’ll give us a little extra luck, if you believe in that stuff, which I don’t.”
OLD FOES: UC leads the series with Kansas, 6-1. The Bearcats are 2-1 against the Wildcats in the NCAA Tournament. Kansas State beat UC in double-overtime, 83-80, in the Midwest Regional semifinals in 1958.The following year, UC beat the Wildcats, 85-75, in the regional finals. And in 1961, UC knocked off the Wildcats, 69-64, to advance to the Final Four on the way to their first national championship.
Bill Koch covered UC athletics for 27 years – 15 at The Cincinnati Post and 12 at The Cincinnati Enquirer – before joining the staff of GoBearcats.com in January, 2015.