Sean Kilpatrick scored 29 points to lead the way for No. 15 Cincinnati in a win over Temple on Sunday afternoon, but moving to 8-0 in AAC play was a much tougher task than the Bearcats expected.
Playing without Justin Jackson for much of the game after the senior center injured his ankle, Cincinnati still managed to push a 10-point halftime lead to 19 with just 13 minutes left in the game. That’s when Dalton Pepper took over.
Temple’s senior guard put on one of the more impressive scoring displays that you’ll see this season, scoring 22 points and hitting six threes in the final 13 minutes as the Owls went on a 39-20 run to tie the game at 76. It was Pepper’s three in the final minute that evened the score. But on the ensuing possession, Kilpatrick was foul driving to the basket. He hit both free throws, and Jermaine Sanders blocked Josh Brown’s shot at the other end, sealing an 80-76 win.
It was the first time this season that Cincinnati’s defense broke down, and it surely wasn’t a coincidence that their best defender — Jackson — was sitting on the bench nursing an injury. No one had scored more than 67 points on Mick Cronin’s team this season. The last time they allowed 76 points in a game was when they lost to Ohio State in the 2012 NCAA tournament.
That’s concerning for the Bearcats because they will be paying a visit to the Yum! Center to take on Louisville on Saturday. The Cards are currently sitting in second place in the conference standings.
It’s too early to know if Jackson will be available on Thursday. But without him, the Bearcats gave up 50 second half points to a team that’s 0-7 in the AAC. That’s not an ideal way to go into the biggest game of their season.
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:
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.