Cronin’s opening statement at the postgame press conference. pic.twitter.com/WC6sgS0ANK
— Alex “Frankie” Frank (@frankie_nnati) November 20, 2018
Alex Frank | Sports Director
Cincinnati Bearcats junior guard Jarron Cumberland is the face and leader of this year’s men’s basketball team.
He’s also this team’s leading returning scorer after the departures of Jacob Evans III, Gary Clark and Kyle Washington, who joined Cumberland in the top four in scoring on last year’s team.
Cumberland is most likely going to have to score at least 15 to 20 points a game for the Bearcats to win games this season and get to their ninth straight NCAA Tournament, and Monday night he went above and beyond his expectations by tying a career-high with 27 points in the Bearcats 78-52 win over Western Michigan.
“I learned a lot from every game,” Cumberland said. “Just from reading what the defense gives me and trying to find open guys and stuff.”
His performance Monday night was the second time this season he has gone over the 20-point mark, and it came after head coach Mick Cronin said after the game last Friday that he wanted Cumberland to be aggressive right from the opening tip.
“I watched the press conference last week after the game, last game,” Cumberland said. “I do need to get started at the beginning of the game, cannot be the second half. I need to play the whole game hard as I can.”
Cumberland is used to putting up big numbers and being assertive going back to his days at Wilmington High School where he averaged just under 30 points per game in his senior season.
Cronin did say, though, that because he is a naturally quiet guy, Cumberland’s body language can fool others.
“He’s the nicest guy in the world. Too nice at times,” Cronin said. “We need his voice. What I learned recruiting him was when the going got tough was when he was at his best. Whether it was a loose ball, whatever, in high-level games. It’s a new role for him.”
But even last year as a sophomore playing on a team with a first-round NBA draft pick and two seniors, Cumberland led the Bearcats in scoring over the final 12 games of the season at 13.1 points per game.
While it may be different this year actually being the guy, maybe his performance late last season prepared him for the role he plays on this year’s team.
A player like Cumberland can only carry a team so far, though.
He needs teammates like senior guard Cane Broome and junior forward Nysier Brooks to be at the top of their respective games to take some of the load off his shoulders.
That was just the case Monday night as Broome came off the bench to record his second straight double-digit point total at 14 points on 5-9 shooting.
“I just tried to come in again and do it again with defense,” Broome said. “This year is more of a challenge. Last year it wasn’t our team. We were the back guys. It was a different team. Now we have to be the guys that help out the other guys.”
Brooks poured in 15 points and 10 rebounds for his second straight double-double.
“I think Nas’s hard work is really paying off,” Cronin said. “If he can keep giving us physical presence, it changes a lot. When you got a guy who can score down low and make free throws, he can protect the rim- he got two blocked shots- it’s huge for your offense. He looked like a veteran out there tonight when he was out there.”
The Bearcats will be traveling for the first time this season over Thanksgiving Weekend as they will be in Nieceville, Florida for the Emerald Coast Classic.
Cincinnati’s first opponent will be George Mason Friday at 7 p.m., a game that will air on CBS Sports Network.
The outcome of Friday’s game will determine who and when the Bearcats will play Saturday, either the winner or loser of the Baylor-Ole Miss game.
The consolation game will get underway at 4 p.m. and the championship game will get underway at 7 p.m. on Saturday Both will air on CBS Sports Network.