Ale Frank | Sports Director
A win is a win, especially on the road.
That saying goes for any team in any sport, as was the case with the Cincinnati Bearcats men’s basketball team on Saturday night in its 65-61 at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) Runnin’ Rebels.
Despite letting a seemingly comfortable 12-point lead early in the second half slip away to a one-possession game late, the Bearcats were able to hold off UNLV’s furious comeback for their seventh straight win.
“I thought this game got real, real physical,” head coach Mick Cronin said. “Almost out of hand at times but when you’re playing a team with its back against the wall- they really needed a win in this game because this is their last home game for, like, 20 games- they weren’t gonna go down without a fight.”
It may not be 20 games, but the Runnin’ Rebels won’t be back on their home court at the Thomas & Mack Center until Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019.
Saturday’s game was the Bearcats first true-road game of the season, and Cronin talked after last Tuesday’s home win against Arkansas-Pine Bluff that teams don’t go away at home.
The Runnin’ Rebels certainly did not go away in the second half, outscoring the Bearcats 37-32.
It wasn’t enough, though, as the Bearcats dealt UNLV its second straight home loss.
“This was a hard one,” sophomore guard Keith Williams said. “Every first road game for guys like us is gonna be a struggle but we just had to stay composed out there.”
Williams was the highlight for the Bearcats on Saturday, scoring 15 points while pulling down eight rebounds.
Since getting the starting nod for the first time in his career back on Nov. 13 against North Carolina Central, Williams has averaged 11.8 points and 4.3 rebounds per game in six starts.
His development, along with forwards Tre Scott (R-Jr.) and Nysier Brooks (Jr.) was noted during the game by CBS Sports Network color analyst Steve Lappas, talking about how the development of all three players together could make the Bearcats tough to beat.
Scott fouled out of Saturday’s game after only putting up three points on 2-6 shooting while Brooks scored nine points in addition to pulling down four rebounds.
Neither Scott or Brooks pulled down any offensive rebounds, a strength of the Bearcats, but Williams pulled down four, prompting Cronin to say that the Brooklyn, New York native bailed them out on Saturday.
Williams pulled down eight total rebounds in the game, tying sophomore forward/center Eliel Nsoseme for the team lead.
Junior guard Jarron Cumberland, who came into Saturday averaging 18 points per game, was plagued by foul trouble the entire game, eventually fouling out with 19 seconds remaining in the game.
Cumberland managed just three points, two assists and two rebounds, but the fact that this team won with its leading scorer tallying well below his season average shows the depth around Cumberland is continuing to grow substantially.
“We answered the question, can we when Jarron Cumberland doesn’t have a typical Jarron Cumberland game,” Cronin said. “We were able to get a win on the road with him in foul trouble and really not playing up to his standards, or really anywhere near what he’s capable of.
“Lot of positives to come from the game. Obviously, a lot of things we still need to get better at.”
The Bearcats have now passed another test on the journey through this season: winning a true-road game.
But Saturday was just the first of a difficult five-game stretch the Bearcats are in ahead of their final non-conference game against South Carolina State on Saturday, Dec. 22 and the start of conference play against Tulane on Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019.
That stretch continues Tuesday at 7 p.m. against the Northern Kentucky Norse (8-1) at Fifth Third Arena before a game known as the Skyline Chili Crosstown Shootout Saturday at 2 p.m. at Fifth-Third Arena.
“So there’s four games left in the stretch you mentioned?” Cronin asked a reporter after Saturday’s game. “Well, after that, they’ll be 22 games left in the year, so you just gotta keep getting better.”