Cincinnati was a desperate team. Looking at a 3 game losing streak, and dropping out of the top 25, it was clear they were going to want this game.
Rutgers wanted this game too. Kadeem Jack even said, "Let's make history."
Unfortunately, the basketball gods didn't not smile kindly on his request. Rutgers came out and played hard, bringing all sorts of defensive intensity. But so did the Bearcats. Rutgers wasn't ever able to get it going in the first half, scoring only 15 points. They only made 4 Field Goals, the entire first half. The rest of the points came on foul shooting.
The second half was markedly better on the offensive end, as Rutgers shot 47% from the field. The Scarlet Knights didn't fold and tried to make the run, at one point cutting the Bearcat lead to 8 (it had gotten as big as 17). But again, the Basketball Gods--who seem to want to keep Rutgers from making that next step--didn't let it get closer.
Every break, every bounce of the ball, every carom went Cincinnati's way. Jack blocked a key shot. Right into a Bearcat's hand for a lay-up. Dane Miller gathers up an errant pass, starts a fast break, and steps on the sideline. Eli Carter deflects a ball, looks like he's about to a runout, and it ends up in Cincinnati's hand. Lay-up. Time after time, the breaks, the calls, and the lucky bounces went Cincinnati's way. Rutgers could never get anything going.
That's not to say the Bearcats didn't play well. They did. Cashmere Wright hit key shot after key shot, including a 28 foot three at the end of the shot clock (Basketball Gods) that essentially ended all hope of a comeback. The worst free throw shooting team in the Big East made 72% of their shots from the line last night.
Cincinnati stepped up and did what they had to do.
They forced Carter to go 1-11 (now 4-25 in the last two games), as he forced bad shot after bad shot. Miller and Wally Judge never got it going. Myles Mack led the team with 15 points, and Jerome Seagears was solid as well, but most of their points came in garbage time.
And now USF comes to town, and if there ever was a must-win, this is it. The Bulls are 0-3 in the Big East and hurting. They're desperate as well, and Rutgers is going to have to match or even exceed their intensity.
Because this is the Big East, and the schedule doesn't get any easier.