The Cincinnati Bearcats are not a complete team, but they have been steady enough to move to 9-1 in the American Athletic Conference through 10 league games, matching Houston’s record in the league. They are doing enough to win, as shown in a 69-64 comeback victory in Memphis on Thursday night. However, their head coach knows that after another up-and-down performance , the Bearcats are still a work in progress.
“We’re still learning how hard you have to play to win a game like this,” Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. “We played harder as the game went on.”
Cincinnati outscored Memphis 35-20 in the game’s final 15 minutes, but the Bearcats barely won as a result of that finishing kick. They were outscored 44-34 in the game’s first 25 minutes, a reminder to Cronin that his team hasn’t yet mastered the art of smothering an opponent from opening tip to final horn.
Resilience has always been a trademark quality of Cronin’s teams in Cincinnati. The Bearcats, in any season, are ready for a street fight, but the problem is that sometimes UC has to get bloodied before it starts throwing its own punches.
Cronin wants his teams to be the aggressors for 40 minutes, and these 2019 Bearcats are still trying to acquire that mindset. UC allowed SMU to hang around in Cincinnati in a recent AAC game. In a league this weak, the Bearcats need to knock more opponents to the canvas in the early rounds of a fight. They are winning consistently, but on 15-round scorecard decisions, not by TKO.
We will see how Cronin guides his team through the rest of February. Cincinnati did well to rally on the road in Memphis, but the Bearcats can’t depend on coming back from 10-point second-half deficits. That probably won’t work in the NCAA Tournament.
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