After Jermaine Sanders hit a jumper with 16:12 remaining to give No. 13 Cincinnati a 44-27 lead at No. 12 Louisville, Mick Cronin’s Bearcats looked poised to grab a two-game lead in American Athletic Conference play and do so in emphatic fashion. While the Bearcats are safely within both major national polls, there doesn’t seem to be as much attention being heaped upon this veteran group.
Sean Kilpatrick’s currently leading the American in scoring, and along with forwards Justin Jackson and Titus Rubles forms an experienced trio that has provided the production and leadership the Bearcats need. And against the Cardinals that leadership would be tested, as Louisville was able to fight its way back into the game with a pressure defense that forced numerous Cincinnati mistakes.
Cincinnati could have folded in the face of this adversity, but thanks in large part to Kilpatrick the Bearcats remained tough. Kilpatrick finished the game with 28 points, hitting four free throws in the final 8.9 seconds to preserve a 69-66 win for Cincinnati. Kilpatrick made all 11 of his free throw attempts, and Cincinnati won despite turning the ball over 20 times, with 10 of those turnovers coming during a stretch in which Louisville outscored Cincinnati 32-17.
Defensively the Bearcats were solid when they kept Louisville out of transition, one of the most important tasks for any team looking to beat the Cardinals. And Cincinnati is an extremely difficult team to score on in the half-court, with the Bearcats entering Thursday tops in the American in scoring defense, second in field goal percentage defense and third in three-point percentage defense.
Jackson’s a key factor in this, not only because of his ability to block shots but also the fact that he’s a solid defender when involved in ball-screen situations. Jackson finished Thursday’s game with 11 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots, and as a team Cincinnati limited Louisville to 6-for-21 shooting from beyond the arc. Prior to Louisville’s second half run the Bearcats took control of the game on both ends of the floor, and if not for that maybe that second half slump turns into a full-blown collapse.
Cincinnati’s veterans, most notably Kilpatrick, were able to make the plays needed to leave the KFC Yum! Center with a win, strengthening their grip on first place in the American (they have wins at both Louisville and Memphis). And that experience is the biggest reason why the Bearcats have the potential to be a tough out come March.
Bassett will require surgery in his right foot and his projected recovery time will be four-to-six months. The injury will force Bassett to redshirt the 2016-17 season.
A three-star recruit coming out of Oldsmar Christian in Florida, the 6-foot-9 forward wasn’t expected to be a big contributor during his first year with the Gators, but his loss does hurt some of the team’s frontcourt depth. With John Egbunu, Devin Robinson, Justin Leon and Kevarrius Hayes all returning, the Gators should have plenty of players to use in the frontcourt this season without Bassett.
Once Bassett is healthy and able to play next season he showed good athleticism and an ability to hit the glass hard while he was in high school. Bassett should be able to join Florida’s rotation as an energy defender and rebounder right away.
Iowa State lands four-star Class of 2017 guard Lindell Wigginton
Iowa State has its point guard of the future as four-star Class of 2017 prospect Lindell Wigginton pledged to the Cyclones on Friday.
The 6-foot-1 Wigginton is regarded as the No. 40 overall prospect on Rivals.com as the Canadian has spent the last few seasons at powerhouse Oak Hill Academy. With an ability to play both guard spots and defend a few spots, Wigginton is a valuable addition to head coach Steve Prohm’s ballclub as Wigginton could help replace Monte Morris after he exhausts his eligibility.
Wigginton is going to need to improve his consistency on his perimeter jumper, but he’s a good pull-up scorer who can make plays for himself or others off the bounce. Iowa State’s Class of 2017 recruiting haul now includes Wigginton, four-star wing Terrence Lewis and three-star guard Darius McNeill.
This commitment is huge for Prohm as Wigginton is the most highly-regarded recruit that he has landed with the Cyclones. With Prohm’s point guard history with guys like Isaiah Canaan at Murray State and Monte Morris now with Iowa State, Prohm did a nice job of finding his next young guard to mold for the future.
Davidson star Jack Gibbs to miss a few weeks with shoulder injury
Davidson senior guard Jack Gibbs is one of the most under-the-radar players in college basketball as he will be among the nation’s leading offensive threats this season if he’s healthy.
But health is going to be a question for the 6-foot-1 guard as Gibbs is dealing with a shoulder injury that will sideline him for 2-to-3 weeks, according to head coach Bob McKillop. McKillop told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman that tests came back negative for Gibbs and he’s expected to be back for the Wildcats’ season-opener. The injury for Gibbs occurred during Thursday’s Davidson practice.
As a junior, Gibbs averaged 23.5 points, 4.9 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game as he became one of the nation’s premier offensive players. Gibbs is going to be a huge key for Davidson this season as he needs to be healthy in order for the Wildcats to make it back to the NCAA tournament.
VIDEO: Dennis Smith Jr. electrifies N.C. State fans at team’s scrimmage
N.C. State freshman point guard Dennis Smith Jr. excited fans with some absurd plays at the team’s Primetime with the Pack event last night.
The highly-touted, five-star prospect is the most electric prospect to come to the Wolfpack in years and Smith had the crowd buzzing with some highlight-reel dunks during the team’s 20-minute scrimmage.
Smith made one teammate look silly by putting it between his legs and throwing down a vicious dunk during one play while he also threw an alley-oop to himself to finish another break.
Kentucky freshman guard Malik Monk is going to be one of the newcomers to keep an eye on this season as the 6-foot-3 Arkansas native is an explosive scorer who packs vicious athleticism.
Monk showed Big Blue Nation some of what they can expect to see during Friday night’s Blue/White Scrimmage as he unleashed a ferocious dunk in some traffic and also had another good dunk in transition. While Monk has great lift off the floor, he also isn’t afraid to cock the ball back and put some authority on his dunks. He’s going to be a ton of fun to watch this season.