Cincinnati got a career-high 28 points from JaQuon Parker, forced 17 turnovers — gathering 13 steals and swatting nine shots — and shredded what had been a stifling Marquette press over the last two months as they ran past the eighth-ranked Golden Eagles 72-61 on senior night at Fifth Third Arena.
It was an impressive performance from the Bearcats considering how well Marquette had been playing of late. Coming into the game, they had lost one game since January 7th. They had climbed all the way into the top ten and had officially taken themselves off the list of Final Four sleepers because, frankly, you can’t be a sleeper when you’re the No. 8 team in the country.
And the Bearcats manhandled them.
That 11 point final margin? It didn’t do the game justice. The Bearcats ended the half on a 33-15 surge to take a 42-26 lead into the half and never looked back, pushing their lead to as much as 19 in the second half and holding a team with a reputation for comebacks from mounting any kind of run.
Perhaps the most impressive part of this win is that Cincinnati did it while shooting just 4-24 from three. The Bearcats aren’t exactly reliant on the three, but it has become a much bigger part of their offense since they were forced to play small in the games immediately following the brawl. Parker is a huge part of that, as he can slide over to the four and play a role similar to what Kim English plays for Missouri.
The question that is going to be asked now is where the Bearcats stand on the bubble. The simple answer is that this win helped, and if the tournament were to start today, there is little question that the Bearcats would be getting a bid. They have an RPI of 76, and while they do have six top 50 wins, they also have three losses to teams outside the top 130 — including Presbyterian — and they played an insanely weak non-conference schedule. Losing at Villanova on Saturday and dropping their first game of the Big East Tournament would be a bad thing.
After the game, head coach Mick Cronin took the microphone and said to the Bearcat faithful, “We’ll see you in New York, then in the NCAA tournament.”
If they keep winning, that statement will hold true.