This was originally published in The Athletic.
As it has for nearly every day of the Mick Cronin Era, Bob Huggins’ shadow again loomed large Wednesday night. But this time it wasn’t the former UC coach’s shadow. Instead, he was there, in the flesh, which is, uh, a lot of flesh.
Huggins was in the house at Fifth Third Arena, along with a number of former Bearcat players as well as the families of former UC coaches George Smith and Ed Jucker, all helping to commemorate the school’s Final Four teams during halftime of Cincinnati’s tilt with UCLA.
Huggins’ first non-coaching appearance at a UC game in nearly 14 years delighted the sellout crowd, which deservedly gave the school’s all-time leader in wins the loudest and longest ovation of a night filled with raucous cheers and good feelings throughout. Huggs’ return, as overdue and fleeting as it was, ended up being a mere subplot to the night’s events, which were headlined by a thorough, complete performance by the home team. A 29-point statement was made: UC’s hoops past deserves celebration, but its present ain’t so bad either.
With Cronin’s former boss in the building, his current team was fantastic, throttling UCLA with a near-perfect performance. Name it, and the Bearcats did it well. They shot over 52 percent from the field, nailing 12 of 21 threes, while rebounding more than a third of their own misses as they clobbered the tall, lengthy, Bruins on the glass. Cincinnati had assists on 24 of its 33 makes, and as has been custom in some of their better performances, the Bearcats had just six turnovers.
Steve Alford’s team might play defense the way I diet – talking about it, thinking about it, then ultimately putting almost no effort into it – but for a program that’s rarely associated with picturesque offensive efficiency, Cronin’s Cats were both fun to watch, and exceptionally efficient.
To read more, go to The Athletic.