Sean Kilpatrick

Losing to Ohio State hurts, but Cincy’s future is bright

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What will sting the most of Cincinnati’s 81-66 loss to No. 2 Ohio State on Thursday night won’t be the fact that the Bearcats are heading home from the NCAA tournament.

Cincinnati was never supposed to make it this far. Not as a No. 6 seed. Not when they lost to Presbyterian at home. Not when the Bearcat faithful wanted Mick Cronin run out of town.

There are reasons to be disappointed about the outcome of any season for any team, but for this group, losing in the Sweet 16 to an Ohio State team stocked with all-americans and with a pair of future pros on their roster is not one of them, even if it is “Ohio State”.

No, what is going to hurt the most is the fact that, for the first eight minutes of the second half, the nation saw just what Cronin’s club was capable of.

Cincinnati used a 24-8 run to take a 49-45 lead after trailing by 12 at the half. They were hitting threes. They were forcing turnovers. They were making things happen in the open floor. It was everything that was good about Cincinnati basketball this season.

But it only lasted eight minutes, and basketball is a 40 minute game. In the other 32, the Bearcats were outscored 73-42, getting torched by Jared Sullinger in the paint, Deshaun Thomas everywhere and Aaron Craft on the defensive end of the floor. It didn’t help matter that Dion Dixon and Yancy Gates, in their final games in a Cincinnati uniform, were decidedly forgettable.

But don’t stress too much, Bearcat fans. Things are looking up for this program.

Cashmere Wright and Sean Kilpatrick will return to form one of the better back courts in the Big East, if not the country. Jaquan Parker turned his career around last offseason, and there’s no reason to think he won’t continue to improve this summer. Jeremiah Davis showed flashes of scoring ability this year.

The front line has loads of potential as well. Justin Jackson, at times, doesn’t have a clue, but there is something to be said for someone that plays as hard as he does. And as athletic as Jackson is, his natural ability pales in comparison to that of guys like Shaquille Thomas, Octavius Ellis and Kelvin Gaines.

And I haven’t even mentioned Cheikh Mbodj or Ge’Lawn Guyn.

So, Bearcat fans, while I won’t blame you if you washed down a cheese coney and a three-way with a couple Moerlein Lager Houses — in fact, I would have supported it — get over the loss when you get over your hangover.

The future is bright.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman out with a knee injury

UNLV forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. shoots against San Diego State during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
(L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.

The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.

They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.

That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.

Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:

VIDEO: Buddy Hield is ‘all money’ on game-winning three vs. No. 24 Texas

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) takes a shot over Oklahoma State forward Chris Oliver during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
(AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
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With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.

At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes

“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:

“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”

“It’s all money.”

Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.

Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .

Want to talk about coaching luxuries?

Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.