Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin thought his team played well enough to win Sunday's game, but mental mistakes and missed opportunities down the stretch cost them dearly as they lost another close one to Seton Hall, 64-61.
The Bearcats had several opportunities to take the lead in the last five minutes of the game, but were plagued once again by missed free throws and lay-ups.
"You miss lay-ups and free throws and you can't win, said Cronin. "It's hard to overcome it. We played well enough to win the game but you have to make lay-ups and free throws.
Cincinnati shot just 43.8 percent (7-16) from the free throw line.
The Bearcats began the game with a 9-0 run, but Deonta Vaughn had trouble staying with Seton Hall's Jamar Nutter who's three early three-pointers kept his team in the game. Nutter finished the game with 20 points on 7-10 shooting. He was 4-5 from behind the arc.
"Deonta gave two threes away by defending the screen wrong in the first half," Cronin said. "It's a simple down screen. Now you are trying to make those points up and it hurts."
The Bearcats led 24-16 midway through the first half, but Seton Hall made them pay with their outside shooting and closed out the half with a 20-6 run. Seton Hall ended up making 7-13 three-point attempts for the game.
In the second half, the Bearcats began closing out on the Pirates' shooters, but then they couldn't stop Eugene Harvey on the pick-and-roll.
"Our defensive rotations behind the pick were bad and guys were scared to leave shooters behind it," said Cronin. "You got to zone out behind the pick-and-roll and not give up lay-ups. When Eugene Harvey's passing it to the roll guy then you have to force the pass back out and close out."
Seton Hall went to the pick-and-roll often in the second half and it led to several key baskets down the stretch.
"We really let Eugene Harvey control the game off the pick-and-roll in the second half, said Cronin. "It's really pretty simple. That's really all they ran in the second half."
John Williamson got off to a great start for the Bearcats, making his first four shots, but a knee to the groin and two cheap fouls in the first three minutes of the second half limited his minutes to 12.
"Once we started rebounding the ball and keeping Seton Hall to one shot, then it was game on," said Cronin. "I thought we could have done that from the outset but John (Williamson) not being in the game kills our rebounding unfortunately.
After the game, Cronin said he thought his team's success early in January may have gone to their heads.
"We don't have enough humility right now," said Cronin. "Humility gives you attention to detail. When you go into play at Louisville and you think if you don't listen to everything the coaches say you are going to get blown out, you have total humility. That's what this team has to have."