January 7, 2012

Magical loss by Bearcats

For all the exhilarating wins Cincinnati captured in the last month the magic was never in more on display than Saturday the 7th.

Unfortunately most of the whimsical sorcery worked against Cincinnati (12-4, 2-1) in the 57-55 loss to St. John's.

Disappearing Dion

Dion drove down the court, slowed to assure himself of a layup. With limited pressure he missed long off the backboard. Oh, there comes Cashmere Wright. Surely he will tip it home.

Cash also clanks it long. Trustworthy Sean Kilpatrick rebounds the second miss and draws a foul.

Such a familiar sight, SK bailing out ineffective teammates.

Cashmere is a great guard. Dion Dixon is a solid shooter. Neither were those things Saturday. Neither were close.

"Our problem is that we are an offensive-sensitive team," said Coach Cronin. "That is a recipe for disaster."

Sadly the offense was virtually non-existant Saturday. Dixon was 0-8 from the floor. For only the fourth time all season Dixon attempted zero free throws.

Every one has bad games. Be fair to Dion. He scored big in so many games this year already. Is that the prudent line of thinking?

Hardly.

Dixon did this last year. He blew away inferior November/December competition then pulled his first vanishing act.

Saturday Dion did not score a single figure. The only other team this year to hold Dixon below double figure scoring...Presbyterian.

Over his 116 game career totaling 1,009 points Dixon has only failed to score a single point (with 10+ minutes played) five times.

Less than 4% of the time.

Dixon will score something each night out, but more than that his coach wants him to be defensively-reliable regardless of his offensive swoons.

"Just because you don't make shots it doesn't mean your mojo is gone," said Kilpatrick.

Leave it to SK to bring this team back up. Sure Yancy (Gates) and Dion are captains along with Cashmere Wright, but Kilpatrick leads them. He continuously gives the team a fire, a fight occasionally lacking from its Senior Class.

Like Dion another academic senior in Cashmere struggled. He too deserves extreme credit for a positive 2011 portion to the campaign.

Cash gripped the reins when Yancy was suspended. He pulled Kelvin Gaines along, kept Kilpatrick confident, led the youngsters through expected growing pains.

Cashmere had been an emotional revelation in Gates' absence. But St. John's came out harder and tougher than him.

Reappearing Cashmere

A novice magician can make an item dissapear. It takes a master to bring that item back. Erasing an entire human being?! Forget it.

Well somehow Cincinnati's point guard removed himself from the game completely Saturday.

"It all started from the beginning," said Wright. "I failed to get myself and my team going. I didn't bring the energy. It trickled down."

Wright hardly competed in the first half. Through twenty opening minutes Cash only saw nine minutes of floor time (lower than usual) resulting in two shots, two rebounds, two turnovers, and zero assists.

"At some point these upperclassmen will have to realize you have to show up and play every day," said Coach Cronin "You can't win a couple games and shut it down."

UC was working with a sparkling seven game winning streak including wins over Pittsburgh, Oklahoma, and Notre Dame. And then this stinker.

"We came out not ready," said Wright. "We weren't ready for the fight."

So Cash completely removed himself from the stage. Nowhere to be seen.

"I didn't do too much the whole game basically," said Wright. "It trickles down. We didn't deserve to win the game basically."

And yet there was a very real chance of extending the game to overtime.

Remarkably Cashmere summoned his spirit, brought his visage back to the arena.

In the final three minutes Cashmere hit two outside shots. Also, backup point guard Ge-Lawn Guyn shoved a layup off the glass.

When Jeremiah Davis nailed a last second three-pointer the contest appeared deadlocked at 55. A deadlock that would not be broken by any wizard.

"We failed to block out," said Coach Cronin.

St. John's freshman guard D'Angelo Harrison offered a baseline floater to the heavens.

"Basketball Gods giving the team that deserved to win the win today," said Coach Cronin. "It is hard to block out in the scramble when you have guys trying to steal the ball. What are you going to do? Turn around and make a 70-footer."

Inverted Lineup Trick by Mick

For years Coach Cronin has quickly yanked players. He ordinarily reserves the procedure for mental mistakes but has the capability of extracting physical blunderers too.

Saturday Mick pulled the ultimate misdirection, a trick so grandiose it requires hyperanalytic experimentation to extrapolate a solution.

"For the first time in my career here I subbed five guys at one time," said Coach Cronin. "That is all you can do."

The leader removed his entire starting unit of Yancy Gates, Parker, Dixon, Wright, and Kilpatrick in one fell swoop. The manuever takes years to attempt, many more to perfect.

"We only had 31 deflections and pressed the entire game," said Coach Cronin. "Or are supposed to be pressing but I can't get my senior guards to pressure the ball. I have to yank them and put in freshmen."

Two months after he hesistated to indoctrinate his freshmen guards Jermaine Sanders and Jeremiah Davis Coach Cronin massively exposed the guards to BIG EAST intensity.

Offensively the duo responded rather well with Sanders drawing contact after an offensive rebound and Davis hitting a potential OT-inducing three-pointer. Defensively they are simply unfamiliar with the level of pressure Dion and Cash are accustomed to applying.

And the UC leader believes his defense let him down. The lack of pressure let him and his team down. Not the combined 21% shooting by his starting guards.

"I think when you are scrambling on the defensive end, work hard on the defensive end you make shots," said Coach Cronin Thursday. "I call it 'getting lost in the game.' Instead of jogging up and down and thinking about whether you are scoring or missing your last shot you spend all your time thinking about hustling. Now you are not thinking anymore. Now you are just playing. Now you are on the attack."

Now what?

Cincinnati's players walk into the vacuous Verizon Center Monday night for a Find Heart game against Georgetown.

Like UC the Hoyas are coming off a tough loss to unranked West Virginia. If Georgetown and Cincinnati are tough enough mentally to make the NCAA Tournament they will be saddled with the two day turn around again.

It takes remarkable endurance to complete the task. Such exhaustive performances have sapped the strength of a lesser magician, David Blaine.

Now UC plans to show a greater control of this dangerous magic force embedded in their collective aura. It requires Dion's best. Cashmere must initiate. Can Coach Cronin cast a Spell of Redemption?

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