Don't be fooled by the final score- this game wasn't that close. The Bearcats jumped on the Pirates early and never relinquished their hold on the game.
Here are the 5 Thoughts from what can only be considered a frustrating loss in Cincinnati:
The Pirates made an unreal amount of their shots on Tuesday night. It did not continue into Saturday's contest. The ice-cold shooting doomed the Pirates, especially when you consider they only lost by 5 points. Combined, Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope were 9-32 in this game, and even though Pope somehow finished with a double-double of 10 PTS and 14 REB (my guess: it was magic) and Theodore had 15 PTS, 6 REB and 5 AST, both had subpar games. And that's to say nothing of the fact that Theodore took 21 of those shots. The Pirates didn't make a single three in the second half (0-9), skewering their chances of coming back as the lead fluctuated back and forth from 8-11 points, but was never seriously cut into until it was too late. Some of this was Cincinnati's defense, but open looks and layups were missed Saturday afternoon.
- Effort and Defense
Both were between good and very good all game long. Seton Hall opened up in man-to-man defense to try and cut down on the open looks from beyond the perimeter and to try and make UC run their offense through Yancy Gates (who was extremely quiet in this game). It didn't work, as the Bearcats made their early threes anyway. In fact, at 7-12 from deep in the first half, they made their threes throughout the half. It wasn't for a lack of effort on the Pirates' end- UC just made more shots. That's why it's a frustrating loss to take for Pirate fans. The Pirates held Cincinnati to just 32% shooting in the second half, but they still couldn't take advantage on the offensive end.
Another indication of the effort was the fact that the Pirates, who aren't a very good offensive rebounding team as it is, grabbed 18 O-boards, or nearly half their total. The effort was there. The made shots were not.
- Slow Starts
This really applies to most of both halves, but the Pirates scored a combined total of TWO points between the beginning of both halves and the first media timeout of both halves. COMBINED. That's not exactly sponsored by Red Bull.
In fact, because of the 13-7 run the Pirates went on to conclude the first half, I think the halftime break actually hurt them. They came out with a similar lack of rhythm in the second stanza. Seton Hall's offense has to get going quicker than that, and the responsibility for that happening falls squarely on Theodore. He took three out of the Pirates' first four shots, and that, to put it bluntly, is not a good thing. The SHU offense runs best (and runs at all, period) when Theodore lets his teammates do the talking on offense early in games. By this point in his career, Jordan should have already realized that bad things happen when he tries to do everything himself. I'm not going to over-analyze this any more.
- UC Credit
You gotta give some credit to Cincinnati- they played very good defense, and had their guards step up and play like they needed the W (which they did). Dion Dixon was tremendous on both ends (20 PTS, 6 REB, 5 AST), and Cashmere Wright and Jaquon Parker combined for 25 PTS, 9 REB and 5 threes. They also did a good job of challenging the Pirates' perimeter players, barely giving them any room to work with the ball. In other words, Cincinnati is who we thought they were- a good defensive team that augments their defense with the three-point shot to beat you.
- Bubble Trouble
This isn't a death knell to the Pirates' Big Dance hopes, but it really would have helped for the purposes of the standings and because a W would likely have knocked the Bearcats off the bubble themselves. They now face an enormous test against Georgetown, a now-Top 10 team and the Pirates final remaining chance for a great win (their previous wins that we thought would be great are no longer great, or even very good). I maintain that if the Pirates get wins in their final three games, they'll be in. But if they can't beat Georgetown, that puts an enormous amount of pressure on the team to beat both Rutgers (always a toss-up no matter what the venue) and DePaul (who has proven that it can play with anyone at home this season), plus get one win against Team X in the Big East Tournament. I don't know if this team is an NCAA Team yet. Only time will tell. Being back at home will help, but Georgetown is a team that can win, and has won, ugly. Seton Hall has shown time and time again that it cannot do this. A full preview of the game will be up on Tuesday morning.
It seems there will be even more Hazards to 'Zet Forward' from before this year is out.