Stat line: 22 points (9-of-17 shooting, 3-of-8 3-pointers), a rebound and steal in 37 minutes.
Though Cronin would utilize his bench for 72 minutes in the contest, it was the 37 quality minutes and 22 points he received from first-year JUCO transfer Marvin Gentry that would keep the 69-53 game in question for as long as it was against their conference rival.
After seeing the struggles of starting point guard Jamual Warren play just 18 scoreless minutes of a foul (4) - and turnover (5)-plagued basketball, Gentry realized he would have to do more than his part to keep the ‘Cats in the game. In the process, Gentry not only had one of his best individual showings while wearing the UC red and black, but he also continued to prove to the Bearcat faithful why he not only deserves a chance to get back into the starting lineup but also why he deserved a scholarship offer in the first place. Gentry, who came to the University of Cincinnati a 6-foot-3 175-pound junior college transfer with a smooth jump shot and a chip on his shoulder, was the offensive spark to answer the call of the Bearcats first-year head coach in much a similar fashion to that of when he accepted the call to come to Cincinnati. Gentry responded to Cronin's prodding by tallying 22 points on the strength of 9-of-17 shooting and three made 3-pointers in 37 minutes of action.
The performance of Gentry proved particularly instrumental in the first half of action, as without his output the ‘Cats wouldn't have had a reason to come back out onto the floor after intermission. Though they trailed by 14 points, 33-19, after the game's first 20 minutes of action, without Gentry's eight points UC would have been down a devastating 22 points. Gentry filled a void left by Warren, who seemingly decided to take the game off against the Cardinals. Warren, who played just eight minutes in the first half after four costly turnovers and two personal fouls, symbolized the team-wide struggles of the Bearcats. With Timmy Crowell filling in admirable as a distributor in 11 minutes of work, Cincinnati was able to rely on Gentry's offensive production to help subsidize the pathetic offensive futility of the entire team, most notably Warren and wing-forwards John Williamson and Cedric McGowan. The combination of those three unreliable sources as of late combined for a total of zero points in the first half while accumulating five fouls in 30 minutes of action.
With the game seemingly previously decided given the relative offensive ineffectiveness that has plagued UC recently, the post-intermission showing by the ‘Cats combination of Gentry and Vaughn showed that it wasn't the entirety of the Cincinnati roster was ready to close up shop early against the explosive Cardinals. The Bearcats dynamic pair of newcomers combined for 26 of the team's 32 second-half points. It was not only the fact that Vaughn and Gentry were able to deny Louisville quality looks and helping turn the Cards nine turnovers during the period into 10 points that helped the Bearcats fight their way back into the game during the second half. UC's pair of offensive-minded guards also began to do something they had struggled with all game long, taking the ball inside. The penetrating skills of Vaughn and Gentry helped the ‘Cats amass 14 points in the paint during the second half against the big-bodied Cardinals.
Gentry has now scored at least 15 points in three of his past four showings and double-digits in four of his past five games, including a 32-point effort in the Bearcats upset victory against West Virginia. Gentry's stellar offensive showings as of late are helping to validate the reputation he was noted for coming into Cincinnati a decorated junior college performer. The past two years had seen Gentry earn many accolades, including co-Freshman of the year, North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference Player of the Year honors, and all-conference and all-region team recognition twice during his two-year stay at McLennan Community College, where he earned praise for his outside shooting and on-ball defensive prowess.
In addition, to proving his competency as a scorer, Gentry is helping to prove to many of the nay-sayers, both schools that believed him to be too small or skinny and even himself to some degree, that he is capable of performing at the top level of collegiate basketball. Gentry's personal success as of late is a much needed confidence booster to the Richard Hamilton clone from Texas after struggling mightily during the first 17 games (five starts) of his UC career. During that opening stretch of games, Marvin failed times and time again in terms of both the execution and understanding of the Cronin style of play. Gentry, who was benched in favor of Vaughn, a teenager at the time, saw his scoring average dip from around 4.5 point per game to 2.0 in his subsequent six games coming off the bench.
On how well he's playing: "I've just been trying to get back to my normal self. To me, I'm just my normal self, but to everybody else this is something new. I've been playing like this before the season, and I've been trying to get back in rhythm with the help of my teammates.
On coming off the bench: "Coming off the bench I get to see the game. I just come out and try to help out my team any way that I can. Whether it's scoring, rebounding, or defense, I just try to give them a boost off the bench.
On whether or not he's looking toward next year "To be honest, we think about it, but at the same time we're playing for right now. We're trying to win every game on our schedule, and we're not trying to give anything up. Most importantly, we've got to protect our home court, which we didn't do a good job of tonight or in past games."
Cronin on Gentry
"Marvin Gentry struggled early on, but it isn't a surprise that he's improving because throughout his struggles his attitude has been unbelievable. I've heard this from Coach Pitino when I was at Louisville. Marvin has a tremendous attitude, and he's the most coachable guy on the team. He calls to thank me when I get on him. He's mature enough to know I'm trying to make him a better player.