Cincinnati Bearcats

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No. 10 Cincy holds off No. 11 Wichita State to win AAC title

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A smirk came across Gregg Marshall’s face before the final possession. It’s not hard to guess what he was thinking. It was, after all, a Sunday afternoon in March in which Charles Koch Arena was hosting a top-15 matchup with a conference championship on the line. After years of spending the first Sunday of March in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship, often with the ultimate stakes, the Shockers now had the best game on the national slate, with high stakes but house money.

The Shockers were getting the opportunity that would have never come their way in the MVC. They had one of the country’s best teams in their building in March, a serious perk for moving from their long-time home to the American Athletic Conference.

So it was easy to see why, with a chance to win on the final possession, Marshall was smiling, even if that grin wouldn’t survive beyond the final buzzer.

The 11th-ranked Shockers got three shots on their final possession, but none found their mark as 10th-ranked Cincinnati held on to win the game, 62-61, and its first outright AAC regular season championship.

It was the regular season title game that before the season looked inevitable and just a few weeks ago looked unlikely, with the Shockers sitting on three league losses and the Bearcats none before Cincy lost at Houston and then at home to Wichita State to set up a great final Sunday of the regular season.

It was a game, while not beautifully played, that delivered on the preseason promise.

Ultimately, it was a game played at the Bearcats’ pace and in their style. Cincinnati just dictated terms too often for the Shockers to ever gain any significant upper hand on their home court.

Wichita State, one of the country’s better 3-point shooting teams, made just 6 of 23 (26.1 percent) attempts from beyond the arc. Overall, the Shockers converted at just a 40.7 clip at home. They had little luck on the glass either with just nine offensive rebounds on their 32 misses.

Cincinnati didn’t fare much better as it shot just 39.7 percent from the floor and made 6 of 21 from 3, but committed just five turnovers and grabbed 11 boards, giving them just enough extra possessions to narrowly edge the Shockers.

With Memphis and Connecticut not living up to their respective historical strengths, the Bearcats and Shockers are without a doubt not only the standard bearers for the AAC but the only viable national names for the conference right now. That’s a lot of pressure for the matchups between these two teams to live up to the hype for the rare time the AAC has the national college basketball stage. Sunday delivered.

How these two teams will manage outside the league once NCAA tournament play starts remains to be seen.

The Shockers’ defense has been suspect all year, and Cincinnati just showed their offense, that’s been among the elite nationally all year, can be neutralized with the right game plan, roster and mentality. If Wichita State can’t get help for Landry Shamet and Shaq Morris, both of whom scored 16 points Sunday, that offense suddenly look as potent.

For the Bearcats, the question simply will be shotmaking. Their offense isn’t a disaster by any means, but it’s heavily dependent on second-chances for a team who does not count accuracy among its virtues. The defense is going to keep Cincinnati in every game, but eventually the offense will be called upon to get them over the finish line.

Those, though, are problems for another time, though that date is fast approaching. Immediately, the issue is hoping we get a rubber match on a neutral floor between these two teams in the AAC tournament.

That will leave plenty of people smiling.

No. 25 Cincinnati sends Mississippi State to 1st loss 65-50

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HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. (AP) — No. 25 Cincinnati had plummeted to the fringe of the rankings and needed a confidence boost. The Bearcats got it against a previously unbeaten team.

Jacob Evans III had 24 points and eight rebounds as Cincinnati recovered from its back-to-back losses and handed Mississippi State its first defeat, 65-50 on Tuesday night.

The Bearcats (8-2) were coming off losses to crosstown rival Xavier and Florida that dropped them from No. 11. They ended the slump with a solid defensive showing against the Southeastern Conference’s last unbeaten team, blocking 11 shots.

“We needed to get this win for us to build our confidence and get this thing back on track,” Evans said.

Mississippi State (8-1) was off to its best start since 2003-04. The Bulldogs struggled to make shots in their first game against a ranked team. They missed 10 straight in the first half and 14 in a row in the second as Cincinnati blew open a close game.

“I think we took a multitude of things away from them,” said Kyle Washington, who added 16 points. “We knew what we wanted to do on defense. We were locked in on how they played well as a team. We just wanted to take all of that away.”

Aric Holman matched his career high with 18 points and had 10 rebounds for Mississippi State, which shot a season-low 30 percent from the field. The Bulldogs weren’t ready for Cincinnati’s defense.

“We lost the game tonight because of our inability to attack that zone,” coach Ben Howland said. “We were standing way too much, not enough ball movement, not enough cutting and getting the ball inside.”

Cincinnati has won 31 straight home games , the longest streak in the nation. The Bearcats are playing this season at BB&T Arena at Northern Kentucky University while their on-campus arena is renovated. They went 18-0 at Fifth Third Arena last season.


Mississippi State: The Bulldogs can’t get that breakthrough win against a ranked team. They have dropped 18 in a row against teams in the Top 25. Their last such win was 67-57 over Arizona on Nov. 18, 2011.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats’ offense was stymied during the losses to Xavier and Florida. Cincinnati shot 41 percent from the field against Mississippi State but scored 22 points off 14 Bulldogs turnovers.

“This was a defensive victory, no question about it,” coach Mick Cronin said. “We’re still searching on offense a little bit at times.”


Mississippi State went nearly 7 minutes without a field goal in the first half, managing only one free throw, as Cincinnati took control. The Bulldogs’ 14 straight misses in the second half helped Cincinnati pull ahead by 19 points. The Bulldogs shot 45 percent or better in their eight wins, including four games at 50 percent or better.


It was the first road game for Mississippi State, which was picked to finish 12th in the SEC preseason poll. Howland figured it will help get the Bulldogs ready for conference play.

“Cincinnati is like an upper-echelon SEC team, so it’s very similar,” Howland said.


Cronin on the back-to-back losses: “I was just concerned about the guys’ confidence level. It’s hard to shield them from the social media and the outside world. Young people live in that world, and I’m sure the sky was falling in that world because we lost a few games.”


Mississippi State plays at UT Martin on Saturday.

Cincinnati plays UCLA at Pauley Pavilion on Saturday, a rematch against the team that knocked the Bearcats out of the NCAA Tournament 79-67 in the second round last season.

Cincinnati lands 2018 point guard

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Cincinnati kicked off its Class of 2018 with a verbal pledge from a point guard from the west coast.

Logan Johnson, the brother of Miami Heat guard Tyler Johnson, announced his commitment to the Bearcats on Twitter on Thursday afternoon.

The 6-foot-2 floor general had taken an official visit to campus at the beginning of this month. He had scheduled official visits to Saint Mary’s and UC Santa Barbara for later this month. He held nearly a dozen offers from west coast programs, including several from the Mountain West schools.

Johnson is listed as the No. 130 overall recruit in the class, according to Rivals. While Rivals lists him as a three-star prospect, Scout rates him as a four-star recruit. According to Rivals’ National Basketball Analyst Eric Bossi, Johnson’s stock rose following strong play during the July live recruiting period.

Although, his most notable performance came during April when he and his Tyler Johnson Elite team got the better of LaMelo Ball and the Big Ballers.

When Johnson reaches campus in the fall of 2018, he’ll one of three point guards on the roster, playing behind transfer Cane Broome and Justin Jenifer. Both will exhaust their eligibility at the conclusion of the 2018-19 season.

AAC plan men’s basketball tourney at new Texas arena in ’20

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FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The American Athletic Conference will hold its men’s basketball tournament in a new arena in North Texas in 2020.

AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco announced Wednesday that Dickies Arena in Fort Worth has been selected to host the tournament for three years, starting in March 2020. That is only four months after the facility is scheduled to open.

On the same day of a groundbreaking ceremony for the 14,000-seat arena last April, the NCAA announced that first- and second-round games of the 2022 NCAA men’s basketball tournament would be held there. The NCAA women’s gymnastics championships are scheduled there from 2020-22.

The closest AAC school to the new arena is SMU, with its campus in Dallas about 40 miles away.

Orlando will host the 2018 AAC tournament, which moves to Memphis in 2019.

Four takeaways from No. 19 Cincinnati’s win over No. 24 Xavier

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Trevon Blueitt’s 40-point performance wasn’t enough for Xavier as No. 24 Xavier fell at No. 19 Cincinnati, 86-78, on Thursday night at Fifth Third Arena.

The Bearcats dominated the boards, scoring 30 second-chance points, got 21 points from Jacob Evans and 16 from Troy Caupain.

Blueitt got to 40 points on just 15 shots. J.P. Macura, with 13 points, was the only other Musketeer to score in double figures.

Cincinnati was just 18 of 37 from the free-throw line line Xavier went 19 of 23.

Here are four things to know following the Crosstown Shootout:

1. Cincinnati was uncanny on the glass: The Bearcats missed 30 shots on the night, but 19 times after one of those clanks, Cincinnati kept possession courtesy of an offensive rebound. That’s an offensive rebounding percentage of 63.3. Which is absurd. What’s even more astonishing is that Xavier is one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the country, ranking third nationally in defensive rebounding percentage. It’s crazy that Cincy, which isn’t even that great of an offensive rebounding team typically, was able to totally dominate the glass like that. The 30 second-chance points they were able to score won them the game.


2. Trevon Blueitt is a baaaaaaad man: Blueitt’s entire game was phenomenal but his first half was especially nuts. He went 8 of 8 from the field and canned six 3-pointers to score 26 points (again, on eight shots) in 20 minutes. It was a sight to behold, especially in a rivalry of this magnitude, and on the road no less. He finished 12 of 15 from the floor to get his 40. X may have not come away with a victory, but Blueitt’s performance is probably what is going to get talked about for years when people discuss this game.


3. The Bearcats have it rolling: Cincinnati has now won 11-straight games, a streak that now includes wins over Xavier, Houston and SMU. The Bearcats are now 17-2 on the season with blemishes only coming to Butler and Rhode Island, both of which came away from home. The strength of schedule obviously isn’t going to be elite in the AAC, but they’ve got a chance to really rack up a gaudy win total. They get Houston at home later this year and still have two bouts with Central Florida still on the docket, but it’s not out of the question that they’ll be sitting on 30-plus wins come Selection Sunday


4. It’s been a tough two weeks for Xavier: The  Musketeers have now lost four of their last five games, with a home win over Georgetown the only respite from the losing. While that can’t be a lot of fun for Chris Mack and his crew, it’s hard to chalk it up to anything other than the schedule with back-to-back road games against Villanova and Butler followed by Creighton at home (then Georgetown) and the Crosstown Shootout in their rivals’ gym.

Maybe you’d have picked them to beat the Bluejays at home, but otherwise this stretch went about as anyone would predict. While it’s certainly not ideal, this little skid really isn’t an indictment of who Xavier is, but just a testament to who they play.

Video: No. 24 Cincinnati wins in final second of OT

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Cincinnati took the old adage of “it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” pretty seriously Thursday.

The 24th-ranked Bearcats got the game-winning bucket with 0.7 seconds remaining in overtime from Troy Caupain to defeat Marshall, 93-91, after a first half in which the Thundering Herd lit up the Cincy defense.

Cincinnati was a 21-point favorite against the Thundering Herd, but Marshall made 14 first-half 3-pointers to take a 12-point lead into halftime after scoring 50 points. The Bearcats have seven games this year where opponents haven’t been able to escape the 50s in an entire 40 minutes (or 45 in a 55-54 OT win over Iowa State).

Thing corrected themselves in the second half as Marshall was able to only make three shots from distance in the final 25 minutes.

The Bearcats got huge efforts from Garry Clark and Jacob Evans. Clark was 12 of 15 from the field for 26 points while Evans added 25 on 9 of 15 shooting.

It’s hard to chalk up the night anything other than tough luck for the Bearcats as they’ve been pretty stingy all season in 3-point defense. They don’t give up a big percentage or many attempts from deep. Still, struggling against Marshall at home is a reminder that Cincinnati hasn’t exactly accomplished a ton during the non-conference schedule. They’ve got that win at Iowa State, something few teams can claim in recent years, but that’s their only notable win, unless beating Penn State on a neutral floor moves the needle for you.

Cincinnati may be the class of the AAC, which starts play next week, but their body of work to this point doesn’t give them the look of an overwhelming favorite.