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No. 11 Cincinnati’s loss to UConn shows it needs more offensive variety

Mar 1, 2014, 2:53 PM EST

cincinnati connecticut AP

The No. 11 Cincinnati Bearcats are one of the toughest teams in the country. Nobody will dispute that Mick Cronin’s team can rebound and defend with the best of them. But does Cincinnati have enough scoring and variety on offense to be a major factor in March?

After Saturday’s 51-45 road loss to UConn, Cincinnati should be a bit concerned.

The Bearcats should be pleased that they were able to hang with UConn despite a poor offensive showing, but history has shown this season that when Cincinnati struggles to score, they usually struggle to win.

That isn’t earth-shattering analysis by any means, but to illustrate my point, Cincinnati is 22-0 when they score 60 or more points and just 2-5 when they don’t.

And when you only have two players that average double-figures in points, like Cincinnati does, 60 points isn’t as easy as it looks.

While Sean Kilpatrick is enjoying a tremendous season — and averages 20 points a game — when teams are able to slow him down like Connecticut did, it gives Cincinnati’s offense major issues.

The Huskies usually denied Kilpatrick the ball on the perimeter, and to avoid getting beat on backdoor cuts, a UConn interior defender would usually sag and help to make sure Kilpatrick didn’t get any easy buckets. Kilpatrick got a few — all good scorers do — but UConn’s defense showed that Cincinnati needs more offensive variety to be a serious threat.

UConn dared Cincinnati’s other players to beat them and they couldn’t. While Kilpatrick struggled to a 4-for-16 day from the field, his teammates weren’t much better. The Bearcats shot 27 percent from the field on 13-for-48 shooting from the field and had four points the first 12 minutes of the second half.

Cincinnati is filled with gritty and tough role guys that do their job, rebound and defend but can they get someone besides Sean Kilpatrick to step up and score if their senior star is struggling? Cincinnati can stay in most games because of its defense, but if a team gets hot against the Bearcats and gets a double-digit lead, Cincinnati could be in trouble.