Skip to content

Cincinnati needs to find an offensive threat in the paint, and quickly

Dec 28, 2012, 12:39 AM EDT

New Mexico v Cincinnati Getty Images

Just five days after seeing their undefeated record get tarnished by Nate Wolters and South Dakota State, New Mexico went into Cincinnati and did the same to the Bearcats in a thrilling game.

The game-winning jumper came from Tony Snell with 2:28 left on the clock, when he answered a Cashmere Wright three by putting the Lobos up 55-54. Neither team would score again the rest of the night.

Alex Kirk was the star for the Lobos. The 6-foot-11 sophomore is finally healthy this season after sitting out last year due to surgical procedure he had on his back. He finished with 15 points, seven boards and three blocks, throwing down a couple of dunks in traffic and attacking the offensive glass with the kind of reckless abandon that made you wonder if he had forgotten about his back surgery.

In short, Kirk walked into the house of the undefeated No. 8 team in the country and proceeded to start pushing people around.

And it worked.

Because if we learned anything tonight, it’s that Mick Cronin’s club is going to have to learn how to play a whole lot more physical if they are going to have a shot of competing with Syracuse and Louisville at the top of the Big East. The Bearcats were 11-26 from beyond the arc on Thursday night, and they lost. While scoring 54 points. That barely seems possible, but when you consider that the Bearcats shot 9-38 from two-point range — with what seemed like two-thirds of those shots coming around the rim — while earning all of four free throws, it starts to make some sense.

In fact, Cincy’s lack of physicality did more than simply keep them off of the free throw line and keep them under 25% shooting from inside the arc. It also meant that, with 15.7 seconds left, the Lobos still had two fouls to give. That’s why New Mexico was able to run the clock down to 4.5 seconds and force Cincinnati into an out-of-bounds play under the basket for their shot at winning the game.

And, of course, the shot they got was a contested three off the dribble from Sean Kilpatrick, which just so happened to be blocked by Kirk.

A fitting end, you might say.

The Bearcats cannot survive as an elite team without a scoring presence in the paint. They’ll win a lot of games — that’s what happens when you have a back court as good as Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright and a roster stocked with as much athleticism as Cronin has as his disposal — but winning a lot of games and beating a lot of good teams is a different story.

Having the talent to make the second weekend and entering the tournament as a legitimate Final Four contender are two completely different things. Unless Mick Cronin finds a way to get one of his big men the ability to finish around the rim as a belated Christmas gift — or dig up some loophole to get Yancy Gates eligible again this season — the most talented team in the Cronin-era won’t be going all that far.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Sam Dekker, Frank Kaminsky catch fire as No. 1 Wisconsin beats No. 2 Arizona

    Mar 28, 2015, 8:35 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Dekker scored 20 of his 27 points in the second half at Wisconsin beat Arizona in the Elite Eight for the second straight year.

  2. Frank Kaminsky dances his way to the Final Four (VIDEO)

    Mar 28, 2015, 8:34 PM EDT

    Arizona v Wisconsin Getty Images

    Frank got a little funky after Wisconsin’s win over Arizona.

  3. Rick Barnes is no longer the head coach at Texas

    Mar 28, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Barnes coached at Texas for 17 seasons.

  4. Arrests made as Michigan State fans gather, set fires near off-campus apartments after Sweet 16 win (VIDEO)

    Mar 28, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Some Michigan State students got a little too rowdy following a win over Oklahoma.

  5. Reports: The Citadel hires VMI head coach Duggar Baucom for same position

    Mar 28, 2015, 1:48 PM EDT

    Duggar Baucom AP

    The Citadel hired away the head coach of a Southern Conference rival.

  6. Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey on college hoops: ‘It’s absolute torture watching some of these games’ (AUDIO)

    Mar 28, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    Houston Rockets Draft Picks Press Conference Getty Images

    Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey had some strong words on the current state of college basketball.

  7. Frank Kaminsky’s growth results in individual and team benefits for No. 1 Wisconsin

    Mar 28, 2015, 12:17 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Frank Kaminsky’s path to stardom may not follow that of last year’s national Player of the Year winner, Doug McDermott, but it’s one that many players hope to navigate during their own time in school.

  8. Tom Izzo blames himself, new Will Ferrell/Kevin Hart movie on Michigan State’s sluggish Sweet 16 start

    Mar 28, 2015, 10:55 AM EDT

    (AP) AP

    Michigan State might have been the only people in the country watching “Get Hard” on Friday afternoon.

  9. Former oddsmaker believes Kentucky would be underdog against all-time great college basketball teams

    Mar 28, 2015, 9:40 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Kentucky might finish the 2014-15 season unblemished, but how do they stack up against some of the best teams in college basketball history?

  10. Tourney Snacks: Duke-Gonzaga, Louisville-Michigan State advance to Elite 8

    Mar 28, 2015, 12:52 AM EDT

    Justise Winslow (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Get caught up on all of Friday’s NCAA tournament action.

  11. Tip times, announcer pairings and channel guide for 2015 Elite 8

    Mar 28, 2015, 12:27 AM EDT

    Quinn Cook AP

    The schedule for Sunday’s Elite 8 games.

  12. No. 1 Duke advances to Elite 8 with win over No. 5 Utah

    Mar 28, 2015, 12:08 AM EDT

    (AP) AP

    No. 1 Duke advanced to the Elite 8 with a win in the South Regional over No. 5 Utah.

  13. Bradley announces Brian Wardle hired as head coach

    Mar 27, 2015, 9:58 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Wardle spent five seasons as coach at Green Bay.

  14. Caleb Martin posterizes Montrezl Harrell

    Mar 27, 2015, 9:39 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Caleb Martin’s only two points of the game.