Georgia State’s star guard D’Marcus Simonds did what he could to try and earn Ron Hunter his second upset win in the span of four seasons.
Simonds scored 16 of his 24 points in the opening minutes of the game — a personal 16-11 surge to open the game — and the Panthers led by as many as eight points in the first half before No. 2 seed Cincinnati made their run. Jarron Cumberland finished with 27 points and 11 boards as the Bearcats opened up a 10 point lead late in the first half and pulled away down the stretch, escaping the first round with a tougher-than-it-looks, 68-53 win.
Cincinnati will advance to play the winner of this afternoon’s matchup between No. 7
Nevada and No. 10 Texas.
The major concern with this Cincinnati team this season is that they lack a go-to scorer. In theory, that guy should be Jacob Evans, but Evans has a habit of forgetting that he is, actually, Mick Cronin’s best player and this team’s go-to guy. That happened for stretches on Friday afternoon, which is what’s so important about what Cumberland did.
The Bearcats can go through spells where it looks like they struggle to put the ball in the basket. As good as they are defensively, one of the reasons that this team hasn’t gotten much attention as a potential Final Four threat is that they don’t score the ball all that well, and that they can find themselves bogged down on the nights when Evans isn’t hitting shots.
Cumberland is streaky, but when he’s on, he can do things like he did on Friday.
And that’s big.
Because I guarantee you that, at some point during the next 10 days, if Cincinnati is going to get to a Final Four, they are going to again have to rely on someone other than Evans to carry the load offensively.