December 14, 2011

Raiders beat by UC range

With career-best contributions from Jermaine Sanders and Kelvin Gaines Wednesday night Cincinnati (6-3) lambasted Wright State 78-58. Not to be overshadowed, hot-shooting guard Sean Kilpatrick made a career high six triples.

As soon as the emotions cooled off Saturday Cincinnati desperately wanted to get back on the floor. Desperate to find a sense of normalcy. Dealing with external criticism, albeit largely deserved UC players have been a tempest of emotions for days now.

"They came out tougher," said John Balwigaire. "They were pouring in shots from everywhere. They really rallied together and they wanted to win."

A thin bench nudged veteran-reliant Coach Cronin to play his freshmen more. Players like Jermaine Sanders, Kelvin Gaines, and Jeremiah Davis all saw extended minutes. All three set career highs for minutes played.

Sanders finally hinted at the tremendous shooter he was recruited to be. A first half bomb made by Sanders led to a pumping fist. Young players constantly derive confidence from made field goals. JS is no different.

"He is a conscientious guy," said Coach Cronin of Sanders. "He is not like SK. He is too nice for a basketball player. It was a true team effort. Cash went around to all those guys. He was the difference, mentally. He saw what I was trying to do."

The first outside shot led to two more converted three-pointers. In all Sanders finished with nine points, after amassing just twelve all year.

"If they continue to get offensive rebounds they are not going to worry about their shot," said Wright State Head Coach Billy Donlon. "They are going to shoot with an unbelievable amount of confidence."

Without depth
Foul trouble plagued UC from the jump. It is tough when you have two post players and both are known to be foul magnets.

"I was concerned about our lack of size," said Coach Cronin. "I was concerned about what I was going to do when Kelvin and Justin fouled out, but fortunately they didn't foul out until the game was almost over."

Mick Cronin erupted in fury midway through the second half as Justin Jackson clobbered Reggie Arceneaux. He wasn't much happier when Gaines whacked forward AJ Pacher. Thanks to their nearly uninterrupted accumulation of fouls Gaines and Jackson watched as JaQuon Parker moved into their former home.

Parker in the paint? Hardly a long-term solution it was the best Coach Cronin could do given his team's circumstances.

The nuisance tremor became a full blown disaster when JJ acquired his fourth foul with 8:52 to play. Gaines re-entered, also saddled with four. Gaines ultimately fouled out with 5:09 left. Jackson lasted a bit longer. He set a screen at 17.5 seconds. It was whistled. The final tall tree had been cut down. A proud forest devolved into bushes.

Watching the Two Center Monty UC executed was much more entertaining than the actual basketball contest. The Bearcats were hardly confronted. No competitive balance existed. Leading 43-22 halfway through will do that to a game.

Image restoration attempt

ESPN Columnist Andy Katz wove his web, trying to catch a player or Coach Cronin in a weak moment. He talked with Coach Cronin several minutes prior to the game, asked him about the fight at halftime and postgame. He asked Cashmere Wright and SK if they thought it was important to show they are good people afterwards.

Clearly he was hungry for a follow-up story that was simply not present.

"I think it was big," said Cashmere Wright. "Everyone was waiting on us to explode and have a mental breakdown. We are human beings and we make mistakes."

Katz left mid presser devoid of the fodder he so plainly coveted.

"Playing the basketball is what we did all our lives," said Kilpatrick. "Coach was behind us 100%. It becomes easy. Everyone plays the game. We have been playing this game all our lives."

And with that UC returned to the court. The game's result meant little to outsiders. It rarely does. But the Cats made no news when many yearned for it the most.

The point is simple, Davis

Jeremiah Davis was recruited to be a point guard. He has been a scoring guard his whole life and often possessed much, much more talent than his teammates.

Following a long rebound by Justin Jackson, UC reset their offense with Jeremiah Davis out top. Further calcifying the point Coach Cronin verbally extracted the ball from Cashmere Wright.

Davis played eleven minutes and hardly contributed statistically but it was truly the first display of point guard play out of the evolving freshman.

Variety of defenses

Wright State featured a 2-3 zone, 1-3-1 zone, and traditional man-to-man. It didn't matter. None of the defenses accounted for or challenged Kilpatrick.

"Every one on the team was focused," said Kilpatrick. "We knew it was going to be a lot. On top of that we stuck together, like a family."

Wright State attempted to discourage the Cats from penetrating. They did. Unfortunately for WSU Kilpatrick was clicking. The sophomore made five outside shots before the break. He entered the locker room with 17 halftime points.

Left-handed freshman Sanders offered his pair of bombs later on.

Considering the emotional baggage of the week UC performed excellently. They emerge from their three-game road trip 2-1.

"It was good for us to play," said Coach Cronin. "They needed to get back and get their jersey back on."

Turmoil, roadblocks, and distractions cluttered the preparations but as Cincinnati leaves Dayton tonight they can breathe easier. Mission accomplished.

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