Cincinnati Bearcats In Big Trouble After First Loss of the Season

By Michael Roberts
Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

The Cincinnati Bearcats played their worst game of the season, snapping their unbeaten record in a 55-54 loss to the New Mexico Lobos.

The 12-1 Bearcats not only showed a vulnerability defending talented post players but also showed no desire in attacking the rim.

The entire offensive strategy for Cincinnati appeared to shooting the three ball or drive the ball followed by a kick out for a three pointer. The Bearcats went 20 for 64 from the field along with 11 for 26 from downtown while going only 3 for 4 from the foul line. The lack of desire to attack the paint left the Bearcats hanging out at the perimeter, watching the shot clock tick down and eventually launching a shot attempt from long range.

Along with the team’s passive style on offense, Cincinnati had no answers for Alex Kirk on the inside as the Lobos center finished with 15 points, seven rebounds and three blocks. The team’s struggles to contain the big man bring to life the Bearcats biggest fear of having no way to contain a strong interior presence. Cincinnati is going to have major problems in conference play trying to prevent players like Jack Cooley, Talib Zanna, and Gorgui Dieng from eating them alive in the paint.

The impressive backcourt of Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright also struggled in the game.

Kilpatrick shot 5 for 22 from the floor, including 4 for 13 from three point range to finish with 15 points and four rebounds. With 4.5 seconds, the junior had an opportunity to win the game but his three point attempt was blocked. It was the third three point attempt by Cincinnati in under 30 seconds despite the team only being down one the entire time.

Wright didn’t struggle to shoot the ball going 4 for 6 from the field to record 12 points, four assists and three rebounds. His troubles came as a result of foul trouble that saw him pick up two quick fouls in the first half. As a result the team’s offense struggled to execute as well as it would with Wright on the floor and suddenly the three point contest was in full swing.

The problems that plagued Cincinnati in the game must put a big smile on Pittsburgh Panthers coach Jamie Dixon.

Unlike the two guard offense that Cincinnati has ran with most of the season, the Panthers run ten deep with their talented roster. Dixon had to have watched the way Kirk chewed up the Bearcats interior defense and is drawing up a game plan for his bigs to attack the paint. The previously mentioned Zanna and Steven Adams are going to be a match-up nightmare for a Cincinnati team that is short on quality big men. Cheikh Mbodj will give the team everything he has but after him the cupboard is bare for the Bearcats.

From an offensive standpoint, if the Bearcats didn’t want to attack the paint when Kirk was down low, then doing it with Adams isn’t going to be any easier. As one of the conference’s best shot blockers, any drive from Kilpatrick or Wright will have to be aware of where the talented freshman center is at all times.

It’s just one loss but life is about to get much tougher for the Bearcats with two out of their next three opponents being the Panthers on Dec. 31 and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Jan. 7.

Michael covers ACC and Big East basketball along with the Toronto Raptors for Rant Sports, you can follow him on Twitter @MichaelxRoberts

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