Every day there are three things. Here are those three things.
(Photo: Getty Images)
1) Bearcats roll deep. For the first 15 minutes of Saturday night's win at Memphis, the UC Bearcats played some of their better ball of the season, building a 19-point lead that was never really, really, seriously threatened.
But....the final 25 minutes were hard to watch, as UC racked up 27 fouls for the game, many of which were, if we're being honest, not fouls. There was some interesting officiating on display at the FedEx Forum.
And...the 15 turnovers made me want to throw stuff around my living room. During his halftime interview on the CBS Sports Network broadcast, Mick Cronin remarked that if the Bearcats were a better passing team, they'd be "devastating." I'll second that and add to it that if UC could consistently take better care of the ball - they're ranked 120th in D1 ball in turnovers per possession - which is something that goes hand-in-hand with better passing, they'd be whatever the next step beyond devastating is.
Oh...and Cincinnati missed nine of 19 free throws, including a few front ends of one-and-one's that kept Memphis marginally in the game and exhausted my patience.
Now that the nit-picking part of talking about Saturday night's game is over....I loved the total team effort that the victory represented, from Trevor Moore's three that made it 39-32, to Jacob Evans two second half threes that extended the lead, to Cane Broome's triple that essentially closed out the game. I loved Cane Broome providing not only a spark off the bench, but some reliability with a nice nine-point/six assist evening. I love man-crush Gary Clark gamely fought his way to an 18-point/nine board night. And I love how Jarron Cumberland did a little of everything on a night when Evans was in foul trouble. Most of the optimism surrounding this team - which is 19-2, by the way - was based on its depth. UC's wealth of talent was on display on Saturday, as the Bearcats won a game made more important by the quality of the opponents in front of them.
Cincinnati's final ten games include two with Houston, two with Wichita State, and a road match at SMU. I won't try to tell you that four opponents are the most difficult trio of teams you'll ever throw together, but there will be some challenges for UC in the coming weeks. As ugly as the Memphis win might have been at times, and as many corrections from Saturday that the coaches will have to make, maybe the Bearcats are starting to tap into that depth at just the right time.
2) Wildcats turn tough. With my primary focus on what was happening in Memphis, I did not see most of the first half between Kentucky and West Virginia. I did see the halftime score, which was 48-33, WVU. And I did see the first play of the second half, which was a five-second violation against the Wildcats.
At that very moment, having seen enough of a mentally and physically soft team that's been sloppy with the ball all season, you could not have convinced me that UK would pull back into the game, much less win it.
And yet, there was Kentucky in the second half, destroying West Virginia on the glass, converting from three free throw line, stifling Bob Huggins' offense (his own players were complicit), out-toughening the Mountaineers while getting bucket after bucket from Kevin Knox against a WVU defense that seemed helpless against stopping him.
It was the signature win of the season so far for Kentucky, and if John Calipari does what he's often enough during his run in Lexington - get his team to mesh at just the right time - then Saturday's staggering, stirring win in Morgantown will be remembered both as the turning point of the season and the night this year's UK team finally grew up.
3) The kid did hoops for the first time. NKU bounced back from Friday night's disappointing home loss to Oakland yesterday with a beatdown of Detroit Mercy, which has a basketball team befitting its awful uniforms. The Norse were sloppy early before settling in and playing efficiently.
Any my daughter got to enjoy her first ever college basketball game. It'll be the first of many. Maybe the next time I take her, I'll dress her like a girl.
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Radio Show: Know what I think I'm gonna do this week? Host five days worth of radio shows. Cincy 3:60 is at noon, and our regular afternoon show is at 3:05. Both on ESPN1350. I can't wait.
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