Three Key Takeaways from the first game of the Jimmy V. Classic.
- The conference affiliations may have changed, but the style of play remains the same. This was, quite simply, a brutal basketball game to watch. Between all the missed shots, slow pace, fumbled passes, and even multiple clock issues early in the game, you deserve an award if you watched all 40 minutes of this one. The teams combined to shoot 31-for-88 (35.2%) from the floor and a putrid 5-for-26 from three-point range. It was a fresh reminder of the old Big East and the physical, defensive battles we often saw in that league over the years.
- Defense and rebounding won the game for Cincinnati. The Bearcats dominated the battle of the boards, grabbing 16 offensive rebounds to Pittsburgh’s eight. Cincinnati held the Panthers to 31.4 percent shooting for the game en route to the win. In the closing seconds, an offensive rebound and put-back by Titus Rubles proved to be the game-winning basket after Pitt’s Lamar Patterson failed to put a body on him after a missed Cincinnati shot. Mick Cronin praised his team’s effort on the glass and its resilience after a poor showing against Xavier on Saturday and it seemed like a giant weight had been lifted off the team’s collective shoulders.
- Pittsburgh missed an opportunity to prove the doubters wrong. It’s no secret that Jamie Dixon schedules soft in non-conference play. While the Panthers have already beaten two decent teams in Stanford and Penn State, tonight was a clear upgrade in competition. Suffice to say, Pitt did not acquit itself well. After the game, Dixon dodged a question about it and reverted to coach-speak in trying to brush aside the issue. While I’m not convinced Pitt’s poor schedule had a lot to do with tonight’s loss, nobody will give the Panthers the benefit of the doubt after this performance. Even if they had won, I figure the reaction would be similar.
Star of the Game: Justin Jackson, Cincinnati. Jackson held Cincinnati together in the first half with 10 points and six rebounds on 5-of-5 shooting. He finished the game with 12 points and totaled seven offensive rebounds for the Bearcats. After the game, Titus Rubles said his game-winning layup wouldn’t have been possible without the effort of Jackson. He has proved to be an effective player in the post in his senior season and could emerge as a reliable option behind Kilpatrick on a team that desperately needs one.