First Impression: New Mexico Edges Cincinnati, 55-54, in Road Upset

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Twitter Recap: Cincy shoots 9-of-38 inside the arc, attempts only 4 FTs. Alex Kirk shines, Kendall Williams awakens in back-and-forth 2nd half to pace UNM.

Two-pointers too tough. Thursday night’s bout cartooned Cincinnati’s scoring woes inside the arc. If you didn’t see the game, you wouldn’t believe the box score. If you did catch the game, you probably don’t believe your eyes. The Bearcats shot a paltry 9-of-38 from 2-point range against the Lobos, thanks largely to a comedy of missed bunnies by their big men and a slew of ill-advised shots hoisted up by Sean Kilpatrick. Cincinnati hurled 26 3-point shot attempts in all, but who can blame it? The Cats shot 11-percent better from behind the arc than inside of it.

Dec 27, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; New Mexico Lobos forward/center Alex Kirk (53) attempts to block the shot of Cincinnati Bearcats forward Justin Jackson (5) in the first half at FifthThird Arena. The Lobos defeated the Bearcats 55-54. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Ignoring the post. A streaky 3-point shooting team with strong guard play, the Bearcats are often guilty of falling too in love with long distance shots. Thursday’s performance was no different. Cincy bombarded New Mexico from downtown, leaning on the hot hands of Cashmere Wright and JaQuon Parker as well as the understanding that their post alternatives simply can’t score. Justin Jackson blanked on six different shot attempts, all within five feet, proving affirmatively that the dime-dropping big man is not a viable scoring option. The Bearcats don’t even look at shot-swatting commander Cheikh Mbodj in the half court offense, and reserve pivot David Nyarsuk probably brings the most to the table in terms of scoring ability, which isn’t much. As long as this is the artillery Mick Cronin has to work with in the frontcourt, don’t expect Cincy’s perimeter tendencies to subside in the foreseeable future.

Kilpatrick kills offense. The junior guard played a big hand in each of the aforesaid Cincinnati themes. Kilpatrick hurled up 22 shots—34-percent of the team’s total overall—and his bloated usage rate effectively nixed the frontcourt players from the equation. The scoring ace wasn’t much of one on Thursday, especially around the hoop. Kilpatrick finished just 1-of-9 from 2-point range.

Cincy is not a Top 10 team. The Bearcats own one of the premiere defenses in college basketball, which was on display and no less impressive despite Thursday’s end result. With active guards who are both quick and strong fortifying the perimeter and Mbodj anchoring the middle with his shot-blocking prowess, the Bearcats are equipped to win low-scoring games. But until Cronin’s team develops more balance on the offensive end and doesn’t become so reliant on Kilpatrick, Wright and Parker to score, the Cats fall more in line with a ranking somewhere near the bottom-fifth of the Top 25. A reliable scoring option inside would change that dynamic entirely. So too would a capable backup point guard, which the Bearcats lack as evidenced by the offensive rut the team fell into when Wright hit the pine midway through the first half with two fouls.

(Thoughts on New Mexico after the jump)

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