The #23 Cincinnati Bearcats returned to Fifth Third Arena on Tuesday night to host the Norfolk State Spartans after a tough loss to the Xavier Musketeers on Saturday. The first half surprisingly was a battle, but the Bearcats pulled away for the 75-59 victory improving to 9-2 on the season.
The first half the Bearcats led throughout, but it was a sloppy half of basketball for the boys from Clifton. After getting out to a 15-0 lead to start the game the Bearcats became stagnant offensively allowing the Spartans to hang around getting as close to 4 points. In a game where many of us expected the home team to dominate from opening tip, especially after the 10 point loss to Xavier Saturday that certainly wasn’t the case. The Spartans came to play holding the Bearcats to only 43% shooting from the field. At the half the Bearcats were only leading by 8 points, 34-26 and head coach Mick Cronin could be seen visibly frustrated with his team.
D’ Shon Taylor led the Spartans with 14 points and helped pushed the pace to put pressure on the Bearcats defense. There was some boos from the fans at Fifth Third Arena in the first half as Bearcat fans were becoming impatient with their team.
The second half the Bearcats played with much more intensity on defense and offensively the ball movement was much better. They started the half with a 6-0 run and the Spartans never recovered. Once again the Bearcats also seem to play better all around basketball in the second half. They shot better from 3 point land shooting 48% for the game and finish the game with 20 assists. They also had 23 second chance points off of 11 offensive rebounds. So there were some positive signs for the Bearcats and Cronin to take away from this game.
One of the negative takeaways in this game for the Bearcats was bench production. The Spartans bench outscored the Bearcats 32-17 with Jacob Evans having 11 points on 2-6 shooting. If the Bearcats want to have any chance of winning against good teams come March they will need more production from the second unit. Having only 17 points for a talented bench like the Bearcats is not a recipe for success as we get deeper into the season.
Bearcats will hit the road as they take on VCU on Saturday at 4pm.