Most of the people saw this are probably thinking 'a tale of two halves.' And they're right for the most part. The 1st half was perhaps the best 20 minutes of basketball played by the team this season (certainly the best half by Corey Fisher, who scored 20 of his 21 points in the opening stanza before dealing with foul trouble in the 2nd). The 2nd half, not so much - but there are positives to take away from this 72-61 victory.
It's easy to get frustrated about the 2nd half as a 'Nova fan - and I'm sure a lot were. Our core players were all dealing with foul trouble, we were turning the ball over left and right, and at one point couldn't get a stop (or a basket for ourselves) as the Bearcats trimmed the lead down to 7.
But credit to the bench today, because they stepped up in a huge way. They couldn't get much done in the way of scoring, but everytime it looked like Cincy was going to make this game a real nail-biter, they came up huge on the defensive end. Good teams have depth that can do that, and it is clear this team does.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly after The Jump.
Isaiah Armwood - I thought it was the best defensive game we've seen from him in his career. He was all over the place, and battling most of the time with Yancy Gates (who has what, 100 lbs on him?) and helped 'Nova finish with a 34-30 edge in rebounds. He had 4 blocks to lead the team as well.
The 1st half - As I said above, the best half of the season. The opening two minutes with Gates having his way with everyone made it felt like it could be a long day. But the team adjusted and shut down Cincinnati for the rest of the half, while taking advantage of some questionable officiating to push their lead to 16.
James Bell - The freshman hasn't seen too much competitive action this season as he recovers from his shin injuries, but today was as good as a 'Welcome to the BIG EAST kid' games that you'll get. It was physical, it was nasty, and it was poorly officiated. Bell looks like he's getting back into shape. Not worried about the airball - he rebounded the ball well against a big Cincy frontline and went flying into the stands for a loose ball. Love it.
Antonio Pena - Didn't fill up the stat sheet (8 points and 4 rebounds), but his 34 minutes were great as Mouphtaou Yarou battled foul trouble. And how about that new jumper? Remind you of anyone? I don't know about you, but I'm not throwing my hands up anymore when he takes those. I expect them to go in now.
The officiating - I mentioned this on Twitter during the game - but the officials got really crazy with the 3-point fouls. There were at least 2 for each team, and maybe one of them (on James Bell) I thought was deserved. The other were good acting by the shooter. And what's with all the fouls? That was a rough game, but it wasn't violent.
19 turnovers - And 6 of them by Maalik Wayns. He was the long PG out there for long stretches with Fisher sidelined, and it didn't look great. Cincy denied him the ball and the 'Nova offense went into the crapper. The 'Cats won't get away with that against the top-tier of the league.
3 fouls in 14 seconds - That's what Ibrahima Thomas managed to do a couple of minutes into the 2nd half. He was called for a touch foul on the offensive boards, which clearly frustrated him. Moments later he was called for another iffy defensive foul, and he started showing the ref up. He was quickly T'ed up and that being his fifth foul, he was done. Not a good moment.