Rushed Reactions: New Mexico 55, #10 Cincinnati 54Posted by rtmsf on December 27th, 2012
Some quick thoughts from tonight’s inter-regional battle between New Mexico and Cincinnati…
Three Key Takeaways.
- Unbeaten No More. Cincinnati is #8 in the AP Poll, #8 in the ESPN/Coaches Poll, and #10 in the RTC Poll this week, but we are not sure anyone actually believed the Bearcats were that good or if simply the momentum of an unbeaten campaign had put them there. They play hard and defend well, but this is a guard-heavy, flawed team. And when the guards are not hitting — the starting backcourt of Cashmere Wright, Sean Kilpatrick and JaQuon Parker went 14-of-42 including an astonishing six total makes from inside the arc — Cincinnati has a lot of trouble scoring. The good news for Mick Cronin\’s team is that his squad can put the flawless record behind them as Big East play approaches. His team is good enough to finish in the top quarter of the league this season, but they have to find a way to get more balance in their offense (11 points from the front line) before we will see them pushing the upward boundaries of the polls again.
- Still Uncertain About New Mexico. Steve Alford’s squad is a tough team to get a read on this season. They have beaten a bunch of good-not-great teams but it is tough to discern what they actually do very well. Tony Snell and Kendall Williams are certainly capable players, but neither will take a game over in the same way that some of the other stars in the Mountain West will. Their defense and length was solid tonight, but they were playing a smallish, guard-oriented team in the Bearcats. They appear well-coached, but it\’s difficult to say how much that will matter against conference foes that already know who they are dealing with. The gut says that the Lobos are an NCAA Tournament team again — probably somewhere in the neighborhood of a #7-#10 seed — but that they are not quite in the same class with UNLV and San Diego State this season.
- Impressive Effort From New Mexico’s Role Players. Everyone is familiar with the talents of Lobo stars like Tony Snell and Kendall Williams (who combined for 26 points and six rebounds), but I also came away impressed with the skill and effort level of two of New Mexico’s lesser-known players, Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow. Neither is the type of player for whom you run offensive sets, but both guys exhibited a knack for getting their hands on the ball near the basket, resulting in 22 points, 13 rebounds and an untold number of tips, scrapes, and clear-outs with their aggressive dispositions.
Star of the Game. Alex Kirk, New Mexico. As mentioned above, Kirk’s activity around the basket was impressive enough tonight on its own merits, but his proper positioning to maneuver in place to reject Sean Kilpatrick’s long jumper attempt with two seconds remaining ensured the big road win for the Lobos. Throw in 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting, seven rebounds and countless hustle points, and it was clear that the seven-foot sophomore was the difference in tonight’s game.
- “I thought I had him… I coulda drove him left but I didn’t.” – Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick, referring to the final play of the game where his long jumper was blocked by Alex Kirk.
- “Sorry I’m late, I had to talk to Coach Knight. I wasn’t leaving until he said I was finished.” – New Mexico head coach Steve Alford, proving that a quarter-century of time doesn’t always change relationships.
- “That’s why you gotta be able to dance to every dance.” – Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin, on playing different styles successfully.
Sights and Sounds. For much of the game Cincinnati fans’ eyes and ears were split between the game on the court and the school’s football team playing Duke in the Belk Bowl. With all the plasma screens in the luxury boxes tuned to the football game, it was easy enough for much of the crowd to keep tabs on the Bearcats’ gridiron fortunes. When arena staff flashed that UC had taken a seven-point lead with a minute remaining, Fifth Third Arena erupted.
What’s Next. The immediate future gets no easier for either team, as both squads will suit up on New Year’s Eve for tough road games. Cincinnati travels to Pittsburgh for its
AFC Central Big East opener, while New Mexico continues its tour of the Midwest by traveling to St. Louis.