Two blemishes. Two losses. Twenty-three games and only two losses.
The Bearcats dropped their first game against the University of Rhode Island on the road in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament. The second loss came against Butler University 14 games ago, again on the road — that time in historic Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Fighting Mick Cronins competed in both games, but came up just short.
Yesterday, UC got all over UCONN in front of more than 13,000 fans at Fifth Third Arena and now have the third longest winning streak in the country. The margin of victory was only 14 by the sound of the final buzzer (82-68); however, the game never felt competitive. Was UCONN hobbled by injuries? Sure, but it would not have mattered yesterday, not this season.
I will go a step further…the Bearcats would have won yesterday even if Jim Calhoun was assisting Kevin Ollie and Shabazz Napier was running point for the Huskies. UC is good this year. Scary good. They put up 82 points after their leading scorer, Jacob Evans, only took three shots. This UC team, unlike years past, figures out a way to gut out tough wins and score points.
Is Evans not getting into the flow of the game? Not a problem, Kyle Washington will hit for 27 points. Troy Caupain sputtering for only 7 points? No worries, Young Gary Clark will drop 20 points on 14 shots, and Superfrosh Jarron Cumberland will heat up for a cool 15 points. They figure out a way to score, somehow, some way.
With the excitement and anticipation building for this team, how does all of this make Head Coach Mick Cronin feel? You guessed it – pissed. Wait…what?
In his post game interview, Cronin had the following observations…
- On the overall team effort yesterday, “Jacob Evans had one deflection. Kyle Washington had zero. Tonight, they combined for one more deflection than my mother, who passed away in 2005, had.”
- On why Jacob Evans struggled, “You soak up adulation and that is what happens.”
- On this team’s potential, “I want to make a run in March…you’ve got to play defense all the time…Tulsa was our best win this year because we had so many deflections in the final minutes of that game.”
- On the win against UCONN, “We only had 18 deflections the entire game.”
- On this team, “Winning makes teams soft.”
Why is Coach Cronin annoyed? I think there’s a couple reasons. First, he’s from Cincinnati. Cincinnati sports fans, and even sometimes coaches, understand “we can’t have nice things.” Also it’s February in the Midwest and pessimism comes easily.
Second, he’s a good coach. Good coaches don’t let up on talented players and teams. Ever. Sure, this UC team is special. They’re better than any Bearcats team I can recall in the last decade. That said, March isn’t about potential or talent.
March is about guts, grit, and greatness.
March is about killer instinct.
March is for closers.
Do we have any of those? Coach Cronin wants to know. And so do I.
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