Cincinnati Offense Vanishes Late, Defense Can’t Step Up to Stop UCLA from Advancing to Sweet 16

For a brief moment at the beginning of this one, Cincinnati looked a little unsure of themselves, letting UCLA get out to an early 8-2 lead in part because the Bearcats missed five of their first six shots.

Then their senior leader, guard Troy Caupain got a steal and split his free throws. Then he drilled a three, and the Bearcats were right back in it. That bucket by Caupain was the beginning of Cincinnati shooting 61% (11-for-18) for the remainder of the half.

They only had a 33-30 lead at that time, though, because they had held UCLA to only 37.5% but also turned the ball over eight times. UCLA didn’t turn the ball over again after that first steal by Caupain.

Cinci coach Mick Cronin even said at the half “if we can avoid turnovers, we’re good.”

Ironically enough, Cronin said at the half that he was tired of folks talking about how good their defense was, and wanted them to notice how good they were on offense as well.

That’s ironic because the Bearcats’ main issue in the second half was that they couldn’t get any of the defensive stops they needed to halt the Bruins momentum. The Bruins shot better than 60% in the second half and Cinci just had no answers.

In the first half, Lonzo Ball only had 7 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 steals, without a single assist, and it resulted in UCLA’s lowest first-half point total of the season. It tells you what you need to know that he finished the game with 18 points, 7 rebounds, and 9 assists.

The Bruins also managed to find their stroke from distance in the second half, while the Bearcats’ accuracy vanished. In the first half, UCLA shot 4-for-14 on threes while Cinci went 4-for-5. After the break, UCLA went 7-for-13 and the Bearcats could only muster 3-for-15 from long range.

Jarron Cumberland did his best to keep Cincinnati in the game, but with essentially zero help from Kyle Washington or Caupain, it was an uphill climb that the Bearcats just couldn’t win. UCLA now advances to face Kentucky in the Sweet 16.

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