As those who watched know, the start of this historic tournament game didn't start the Bearcats way. With Kentucky scoring the firs eleven points, the Bearcats looked like the team who lost to South Florida during the C-USA Tournament. That soon changed as Coach Huggins rallied the Bearcats and in typical Huggins style, fought back to take a half-time lead.
Those in attendance felt the Bearcats were primed to knock the Wildcats out of the tournament. With over 40,000 hoop fans in the RCA Dome, the men in Red and Black were looking good.
With five minutes remaining, Jihad Muhammad hit a layup to pull the Bearcats within a point (60-59), but that would be the closest they would come.
The 2004/2005 season saw its share of games with the Bearcats not being able to score. Last night that monster reared its ugly head again. The Bearcats would score one more point as they went cold and missed their final 12 shots from the field.
Season over! Maybe next year! Final score Kentucky 69 Cincinnati 60.
While the Bearcats didn't win this game, many UK and UC fans are hoping the schools can workout some agreement for future play. Message Boards and talk radio were full of mixed emotions about any future games, but with the excitement shown by fans on both sides a game every couple of years wouldn't hurt.
On talk radio after the game, many UK fans were talking about how much they respected the Bearcats performance. But for every one Wildcat fan that was positive, you still had those who feel UK has no need to take on the Bearcats.
Over the years UK fans have spoke about why this should not be a game. With their tough SEC schedule and their out of conference play, the Wildcats have nothing to prove by defeating UC. Now Bearcat fans can say the same. The Big East will provide tough play each and every year. Just one look at the tournament and you can see who different next season is going to look. With teams like West Virginia defeating Wake Forest in double-overtime, even those teams in the middle of the Big East will provide challenges.
But while the loss was sad, knowing a player like Jason Maxiell has finished his Bearcat career is the hardest part. All Jason did while wearing the Red & Black was prove he should be considered one of UC's all-time greats. "Mad Max" ended his Bearcat career standing 11th in career scoring with 1,568 points, 2nd in blocks with 252, 9th in rebounds with 908 and the second longest consecutive games streak in team history with 129 games. Jason we will miss you!!
Jason is not the only Bearcat senior not returning. John Meeker will be missed for his love of the game. Nick Williams leaves having missed some great opportunities due to injury. Jamaal Lucas provided great work ethic and determination during his Bearcat career and showed the under classman they had better work. All played roles during their Bearcat career.
The other loss from this year's team is Chadd Moore. Chadd saw his back injury cut short his Bearcat career. I'm sure all Bearcat fans wish Chadd the best.
While today we feel the hurt from this final game, let's remember the future looks bright. A new conference will provide new challenges, and some new faces will join those who made this year one to remember.
The team's leader coming back will be Eric Hicks. He will be joined by some solid members of this year's team, while Bearcat fans await the official arrival of Vincent Banks. Banks who was ruled academically ineligible is working hard and should be ready to show fans what made him Georgia's Mr. Basketball in 2003.
Joining Banks is a strong recruiting class headed by point guard Devan Downey. At shooting guard Tyree Evans will be looked upon to give the Bearcats what was missing from this year's team. And of course "Big Man" Abdul Herrera will look to replace Maxiell. All three are 4-star recruits by Scout.com basketball expert Dave Telep. Also in this class will be JUCO Top 50 prospect Cedric McGowan.
So while the pain from this loss will last a few days, the future of UC Hoops is strong and exciting.