UC’s Cronin explains how Bearcats lost to Wichita State/
It was close. It was thrilling. It was also the No. 5-ranked University of Cincinnati’s first home loss in more than two years, as the Bearcats fell 76-72 to No. 19 Wichita State on Sunday afternoon at Northern Kentucky University.
A sellout crowd of 9,523 watched at BB&T Arena. UC fought back from an 11-point deficit but could not overtake the Shockers, who broke the Bearcats’ 39-game home winning streak — the longest active streak in America.
“They shot 53 percent, which is indicative of our lack of defensive communication and lack of our adherence to the scouting report,” UC coach Mick Cronin said. “Combined with, they have a very good team. They made a few hard shots, but we gave them way too many wide-open shots. Defensive breakdowns.”
UC had been 13-0 this year at NKU, where the Bearcats are spending this season while Fifth Third Arena is being renovated. UC had not lost at home since Dec. 29, 2015, a 77-70 verdict to Temple at Fifth Third Arena.
UC (23-4, 12-2 American Athletic Conference) cut the Shockers’ lead to 72-70 with 13 seconds left, on a dunk by Trevon Scott. The score was set up by a steal by the pressing Bearcats, by Jarron Cumberland, with the ball going to Jacob Evans III and then to Scott.
The crowd was rocking as WSU again tried to inbound the ball. This time, the Shockers sent guard Austin Reaves deep for a long pass, and he was able to shake free for a breakaway layup, putting WSU ahead 74-70 with 10 seconds left.
UC quickly got the ball back downcourt to Evans, who missed a 3-pointer. Bearcats forward Gary Clark tipped the ball in to cut WSU’s lead to 74-72. Following another long pass downcourt, Shockers center Shaquille Morris slipped free for a dunk in the final second, making the final score 76-72.
“Our defense has to get better,” Evans said. “We can get better mentally with being locked in all the time. Especially late in the season, every team is better and every team knows us well. They’ve been watching us all season.”
Sophomore guard Cumberland led UC with 18 points and junior guard Evans had 16. Junior guard Cane Broome came off the bench for 16 points, while Clark had 11 points and eight rebounds.
UC fell to 0-3 this season against AP Top 25 teams. It was also the second consecutive loss overall for UC, which had a 16-game winning streak snapped by Houston this past Thursday.
“Being tough and being physical, that’s what is (Cronin’s) main focus right now and we can’t be losing that, and that’s something I definitely agree with him on,” Broome said, when asked how UC could regain its identity. “That starts in practice. We’ve got to come back tomorrow and go at each other in practice because it’s not going to be easy, as we go into the conference tournament.”
WSU (21-5, 11-3 AAC) was led by sophomore point guard Landry Shamet with 19 points. Morris had 13 points and Reaves had 12.
Analysis, notes and more:
WHY UC LOST: UC out-rebounded Wichita 27-26, but the Shockers grabbed eight of their nine offensive rebounds after halftime. Wichita wound up with a 12-8 edge in second-chance points, which matched the final four-point margin.
“We have five big guys that played in the game, and they combined for one offensive rebound,” Cronin said.
That was by Clark. The big men who failed to grab an offensive board were Kyle Washington, Trevon Scott, Eliel Nsoseme and Nysier Brooks.
WSU also shot 52.9 percent from the field, to 48.1 percent for UC.
“We shoot the ball decent, but we don’t shoot the ball great,” Cronin said. “You can’t have seven turnovers from probably your two most talented players in Jacob and Jarron. That kills you,” Cronin said.
Evans had four turnovers and Cumberland had three.
“Second, you must offensive-rebound,” Cronin said. “Gary, Kyle, Eliel, Tre and Nysier had one offensive rebound in 80 minutes. If you don’t have second-chance opportunities to get fouled, or score again, combined with the fact that we missed a lot of open shots … it’s not that complicated, to be honest with you.
“If we don’t rebound it great, we’re not going to be a great offensive team, if we don’t get more second-chance points than that. We’re not going to score enough to beat a team that shoots 53 percent.”
FINAL SEQUENCE: What happened in the final seconds, especially when WSU’s Reaves broke free for the lay-in that put the Shockers up by a decisive 74-70?
First, following the dunk by UC’s Scott that made the score 72-70, Cronin had called time to set up the Bearcats’ fullcourt pressure defense.
“We called timeout and drew up the exact play they ran,” Cronin said. “We still let it happen, which tells you right now where we’re at, mentally. This game, you’ve got to play really hard and play together. You’ve got to play with humility because if you have humility, you’ll pay attention and you’ll worry about things that affect winning.”
Did some player(s) miss their assignments? Did someone not prevent the long pass? Video shows that UC’s Scott was the player trying to chase down Reaves on the decisive play, but Cronin would not single anyone out.
“I don’t really feel like calling out the player that did it,” Cronin said. “I know exactly what happened, but we drew up the exact thing, told them exactly what was going to be done, the fake screen and the go-long. We wanted them to throw it, but we wanted to be right there, because then you get a chance to get the steal and you don’t have to foul. Because if you have to foul right there, you go down four … you’ve got to get a steal with only 11 seconds left.
“The game plan was to bait them into going long. The problem was, the guy let him do it.”
TOO MANY TURNOVERS: UC had 13 turnovers and Wichita State had 15. But, the Shockers held a slight edge in points off turnovers, 22-20.
“Today we turned it over too many times,” Evans said. “Especially against a team that scores at a high rate, we can’t give them extra possessions.”
The Shockers entered the game ranked No. 11 nationally in the Kenpom.com category of adjusted offensive efficiency, at 1.202 points per possession. UC was No. 54 in that department (1.136).
FAST HALF: Wichita led 42-40 at halftime, with a lightning pace by both teams. Wichita led by as many as 19 points in the opening half, at 34-23. UC led by as many as four points, at 17-13.
It was also a loud, noisy showing by the “Ring of Red” UC crowd, which enjoyed the up-tempo affair. Wichita had a few dozen fans behind the Shockers bench, with the group attired in the school’s yellow-and-black colors.
OPPOSING VIEW: It was the first time WSU beat an AP Top 5 team on the road since Jan. 25, 1964, when the No. 10 Shockers beat No. 3 Loyola (Chicago).
Coach Gregg Marshall was asked if it was WSU’s biggest win this season.
“Yeah, you come into a place like this and beat a Top-5 team in the country with their win streak, what was it 39?” Marshall said. “And they’re veteran and so well-coached and tough. To be able to withstand all that, yeah, it’s a big win. We have had some nice ones, but this is probably the best.”
AAC RACE: The game pitted the No. 1 (UC) and No. 2 (Wichita) teams in the preseason AAC coaches poll in their first of two regular-season meetings. The teams will meet again in the regular season finale March 4 at Wichita.
UC, at 12-2 in the AAC, now leads both Wichita and Houston by just one game in the league race.
“We just try to learn from our mistakes,” Evans said. “We’re going to have look at this game the way we did the Houston game, just learn from it and get better.”
BIG GAME: What happens when the No. 5-ranked AP team plays the No. 19 team? You get national television (ESPN). You get a large contingent of credentialed reporters, including national writers from ESPN.com and Yahoo Sports.
More than 20 NBA scouts also attended, with UC’s Evans and WSU’s Shamet projected by several forecasters as 2018 first-round picks.