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.
Prior to a one-year stint as the head coach coach at Bowling Green that came to an end in early April as a result of an incident at a Bowling Green restaurant, Chris Jans was a member of Gregg Marshall’s coaching staff at Wichita State from 2007-14. During those seven seasons Jans was a key figure as the Shockers made the progression to a respected national power.
Jans is back in Wichita, with Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle reporting Thursday that he’s serving as a consultant to the program. Jans’ consulting agreement runs for 45 days, which the school can renew, and he’ll be paid $10,000 for the work. While Jans isn’t allowed to do any coaching, he can watch practices and provide Marshall and the coaching staff with his observations.
“He will be able to consult with the coaching staff, only on what he observes in practice,” said Darron Boatright, WSU deputy athletics director. “By NCAA rule, a consultant is not allowed to have communication with student-athletes … not about basketball-related activities or performance.”
While Jans (who according to the story has served in a similar role for another school) can’t do any coaching in this role, his return does give Marshall another trusted voice to call upon when needed. Wichita State bid farewell to an assistant coach this spring with Steve Forbes being hired as the head coach at East Tennessee State, with his position being filled by former Sunrise Christian Academy coach Kyle Lindsted.
Thursday afternoon marked the first time since Friday that Louisville head coach Rick Pitino commented on the controversy that has taken his program by storm. Speaking with Terry Meiners of 840 WHAS in Louisville, Pitino discussed the escort scandal, what could have possibly led former staffer Andre McGee down the path he’s alleged to have taken in Katina Powell’s book and his future at Louisville.
The interview began with Meiners asking Pitino if it changed his thinking as to whether or not he needed to resign, which (as one would expect) Pitino shot down. Also discussed was the statement released by school president Dr. James Ramsey, which expressed support for athletic director Tom Jurich but did not mention Pitino at all.
“Well I can’t answer that, Terry,” Pitino said when asked why he wasn’t mentioned in the statement. “Twenty-six years ago Kentucky brought me in to make the program compliant to NCAA rules. (Then-Kentucky president) Dr. (David) Roselle and (then Kentucky athletic director) C.M. Newton thought I was the guy to come in and change around the images, change around the culture and add a lot of discipline to the program. And I did that.
“And then I came here to the University of Louisville, and if someone was five seconds late or not early consequences would be paid from a disciplinary standpoint,” Pitino continued. “This is obviously not a person being late, this is not about a person (not) working hard. This is about things that are very disgusting, things that turn my stomach, things that keep me up without sleeping.
“But unfortunately, I had no knowledge of any of this and don’t believe in it. It’s sickening to me, the whole thing. But I’m thinking of my 13 players, I’m thinking of our program, and I’m sorry that Dr. Ramsey did not think enough to mention me but that’s something I cannot control.”
Below is audio of the full interview, which ran just over 17 minutes in length.