UNM Hands UC First Loss.

UC loss their first game of the season Thursday night, a hard-fought affair to the visiting Lobos.

This day was an inevitability. At some point, the Cincinnati Bearcats men's basketball team would lose a game. Most assumed it would happen during Big East play, when UC will face the likes of Louisville, Syracuse and UConn. Few, if any, figured that loss would come at the hands of Cincinnati's 13th opponent of the season, the New Mexico Lobos. Unfortunately, that very situation came true Thursday night as the Lobos handed UC their first loss of the season during a hard fought, but sloppily played 55-54 victory for the visitors from the Mountain West Conference.

It was a first half to forget for both teams, as their combined shooting percentage hovered around 30%. However, Cincinnati used a sloppy offensive performance by the visiting Lobos, one that saw them commit eight turnovers and shoot less than 35% from the field, to grab a 26-22 halftime lead. The Bearcats were led in the first half by Sean Kilpatrick, who piled on eight points, while hitting 2-6 from the three point line. The second half was much of the same for both teams, as offense was hard to come by and defense was clearly the theme for both teams. Lobos center Alex Kirk put on a show, putting up nine points in the second half to finish with 15 for the game to go along with seven rebounds. UC actually had a chance to win the game with a little over three seconds left on the clock. The inbounds pass were thrown to Kilpatrick, who had a look at the potential game-winning three, but held onto the ball for a second too long, which allowed Kirk to step in and swat away the shot, ending the game and handing Cincinnati their first loss.

While the game was difficult to watch, especially given that it was UC's first loss of the season, there are some positives to take away going forward. The Bearcats once again won the rebound margin, 40-35, and forced 14 New Mexico turnovers, both game highs. They also shot well from three, hitting 11-26 for 42%, their best three-point shooting performance in the last five games. However, Cincinnati struggled to get their offense going in the half-court set, shooting a putrid 31% from the field and getting to the line only four times a team. The offense is clearly based around their ability to shoot, and when the offense is struggling to make shots like they were Thursday night, the guards need to take it upon themselves to attack the basket and get to the free throw line. I expect this team to come out their next game against Pitt in attack mode, putting the pressure on the Panthers defense, and allowing their bread and butter, the three-point shot, to come within the flow of the game, instead of being forced like it has been the past few contests. Either way, it's time to put this loss in the rearview mirror and get ready for Big East play, because now is the time when we will really see what this 2012 Bearcats team is made of.


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