MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Cane Broome has had a flare for the dramatic all season long, despite riding a Jekyll-and-Hyde wave throughout. There have been games this year the Bearcats have won because of Broome making shots that you ask yourself how in the world he made them. His game-winner last night against Wichita State in the American Athletic Conference Tournament semifinals wasn’t a ridiculous make, but it was still just as critical as any he has made throughout the season.
With the Bearcats and the Shockers tied at 63 and the game-clock inside 30 seconds, Broome, aided by a ball screen on the left point from Jarron Cumberland, drove down the left side of the lane and delivered a lay-up that proved to be the game-winner and send the Bearcats to the championship game against Houston. The screen from Cumberland proves that if Broome is given an inch, his heroics can take Cincinnati a mile.
Speaking of Cumberland, I have a ton of admiration for what he did on and off the court today. The screen he set on Samajae Haynes-Jones that freed Broome was an unselfish play that helped one of his teammates make a play to win the game for the Bearcats. Cumberland had a rough game today with just 11 points on 3-16 shooting. But when he was on the bench, he was cheering on his teammates by flexing his biceps and yelling emphatically at a good play that was made. We should all be thankful to have a star like that on this Bearcats team.
Have we all figured out by now that no win will come easy for the Bearcats? I knew going into yesterday’s game against Wichita State it wasn’t going to be easy. The Shockers were the hottest team in the American Athletic Conference and arguably one of the hottest teams in the country overall. They were playing to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive, so of course this game was going to be close. I have said it all season; because the Bearcats are the defending regular-season and tournament champions, they are going to get every team’s best shot. That is especially true now in the conference tournament.
The win today was not only vintage Bearcat basketball, but it was also a really impressive gritty win. Winning a game when you shoot just 39.1 percent from the field and a downright terrible 47.1 percent from the free-throw line and you still find a way to win. What does that mean? Does it mean that luck is on the Bearcats side this year? That could be. After all, the Bearcats are now 11-2 in games decided by 5 points or less, including 9-2 in the American during the regular-season and yesterday in the conference tournament semifinals. This time of year, especially when you’ve already played a team twice, teams know each other so well. That’s what Mick Cronin said before the start of conference play, and he added that when teams know each other so well scoring can come to a screeching halt during the game. The game today exemplified what he said. Both teams went lengthy periods without scoring any points during the game, but the Bearcats managed to get timely buckets when they needed them most.
I have no idea what will happen today against Houston. Just last week they came into Fifth Third Arena and annihilated the Bearcats in the final 13:33 to complete the regular-season sweep. But watching Houston yesterday down the stretch against Memphis, I know the Bearcats can beat them. It’s hard to beat a team three times in one season, even though the Bearcats have done that twice already here in Memphis. But I just don’t see the Bearcats losing to a team three times in one season. Not this team. Not a Bearcats team coached by Mick Cronin. I said going into postseason play that I would not let my fandom take over my score predictions, and I am not going to let it here. But I honestly think the Bearcats are going to win today, so with that;
Bearcats 64 Houston 62