Though the "power of X" came out on top over the Bearcats in their last outing, UC utilized some "X"-Factors of their own in their win over Rutgers, 71-66. Up by as many as 12 at one point, the Scarlet Knights were able to fight their way back into the contest on the strength of their second half outside shooing. Just when you thought the ‘Cats were about to fold up, especially because of all that UC has had to endure in recent weeks, most notably seeing a hard-fought contest at XU slip away, the Bearcats utilized their "X-factors" to put an end to their three-game losing skid. These factors were the "hustle formula", and the emergence of Chadd Moore, along with the infectious presence of Connor Barwin as contributors on the offensive end.
In the notes on the message board, I referred to a formula that UC needed to have come out on their end in order to with a victory over Rutgers. Combining things such as fast break points, points off turnovers, steals and forced turnovers, I alluded to the fact that this combined total should dictate who would come out with the win in the end. Sure enough, this was just the case for the Bearcats. The Bearcats beat Rutgers on every single one of those individual statistics, which helped makeup for a sub-par shooting performance in the first half, giving the ‘Cats easy looks at the basket. In total, the Bearcats won the edge in the "Bearcat Equation" 59-14, as UC annihilated Rutgers in just about every hustle category imaginable.
The formula was especially important in the first half when the Cats did not show that well. The Bearcats took advantage of Rutgers sloppy play and their own quickness in the open court by coming out on top of the equation 24-2 over the course of the first 20 minutes of action.
The formula is the perfect equalizer for the Bearcats, as they are able to use their gazelle like speed and quickness to undermine the lack of a true post-game and defensive rebounding prowess. If the ‘Cats to make hustle a factor in every contest they should be able to come out on top in more than their fair share of contests.
Perhaps the biggest of the factors for the Bearcats was one of their smallest players on their team. While everyone knows about the play of Devan Downey (22 points), the player lining up beside him at the other guard position that deserves some press after his showing. Chadd Moore, 6-2 170, came up with two of the biggest individual plays during Sunday's game. First, with the ‘Cats up 3, Rutgers had the ball in the hands of their leading scorer, Courtney Douby, with a chance to tie. Douby, looking to create offense, shook his defender James White and went right (though the ‘Cats hope to get him to go left), but Chadd Moore was there to strip the ball away, get fouled and head to the line to make it a two-possession game. Those free throws not only sealed the game for UC, but also gave Moore some much-needed confidence.
Moore scored a season-high 10 points in the contest, including connecting on a huge three-point shot in the second half, his other "big play" in the game. While ten points does not sound like when you are talking about a starter, it is most definitely a feat when it comes to Chadd Moore who has struggled with back injuries and sluggish production since returning to the UC lineup against Vanderbilt. Moore, who quit the basketball team last year due to back trouble before rejoining the team this off-season, scored nine points in his first game of the season against Vandy (before being suspended for NCAA Summer League regulations), but has struggled mightily since then. Moore had scored as many as six points only once since then, and that came in his second game of the season. Struggling with his back and his shot, Moore is not quick to let his aches act as an excuse for his playing pains. Moore played 27 minutes against Rutgers, a season-high (26 vs. UConn), including 17 of the 20 in the second half. Moore, who had scored only 33 points on the season coming in, 19 in first three games, is a crucial "factor" for the Bearcats, as he gives UC a calming force inside the huddle and on the floor. With the ever-enigmatic Jihad Muhammad slumping with his shot and the selection of them, Moore's steady performance is necessary in every game down the stretch for UC.
Though playing only 12 minutes, of which only three came during the extremely tight second half, Connor Barwin, four points and three rebounds, was most definitely a factor in tonight's contest. The tight end turned power forward came up big in the first half, knocking down two tough shots – showing range and touch – and pulling down key rebounds and showing hustle. While his numbers did not dramatically affect the score sheet, acting as the difference between a win and a loss explicitly, his play inspired his teammates and, possibly most importantly, the fans – the fourth X-Factor.
Hustle points (as alluded to earlier), dunks, and the play of tight ends in the low post seems to keep the crowd fired up all game long, even when it looked like the game was going to go the way of the XU game at times. Never more than a dunk, big steal or blown call away from tearing the roof down with an insanely high decibel collective shriek, the fans feed off the energy of players such as Barwin that play with emotion and toughness. It brings them into the game. While seen as almost a circus sideshow, the football player beating guys up on the basketball court, Barwin has given his team a lift in both emotionally (from his inspired play) and physically (getting tough rebounds and now scoring). Barwin's play has earned him the seventh man spot in the rotation, taking minutes away from the life-long basketball player Ronald Allen. While Barwin will not finish with 20 points or 10 rebounds in any contest most assuredly, finding a player that knows his role and is willing to come off the bench to provide immediate energy gives UC a bit more of that football mentality Cincinnati has become known for bringing to the court.