Despite a career performance from Javonte Hawkins, USF fell 61-54 to #19 Cincinnati this afternoon at the Sun Dome. The Bulls played with much more energy than their previous loss to SMU, and would have beaten most Top 25 teams with their effort today... but the timing was unlucky as his was the first of three straight Top 25 AAC conference games.
The sophomore Hawkins was the star with a career high 15 points on 6-9 shooting for his best game of the season. USF also outrebounded the Bearcats 36-30, but the achilles heel from behind the arc on both ends was once again the difference. USF was just 2-9 from three-point range (both makes from Hawkins), but UC (17-2, 6-0 AAC) was 7-19 from deep.
“I thought we played hard, and that we competed in this game," said Bulls head coach Stan Heath, and the energy in the building from the crowd reflected the improved effort. USF (10-8, 1-4 AAC) also shared the ball more effectively, picking up 14 assists on 20 made baskets, and just missing a few of their signature lobs that could have changed the momentum.
Despite using 2-3 and 3-2 zones for most of the game, the home team still managed to win the rebounding battle. "I was concerned about the rebounding, and we won that area," and UC's coach Mick Cronin agreed, saying "I thought they did a great job keeping us off the offensive glass." UC also played more zone than they normally do, with Cronin noting after the game he should have started his team in a zone instead of their base man-to-man.
Freshman center John Egbunu also had 10 points on 4-5 shooting as well as seven rebounds. Egbunu also showed off some of the post moves with his back to the basket that show the continuing development in his offensive game. His postmate Chris Perry struggled however, going 1-6 from the floor with four rebounds in 16 minutes. UC's star Sean Kilpatrick had 18 points on 7-19 from the floor, and Shaquille Thomas had 10 points as the Bearcats only other double figure scorer.
It doesn't get any easier as the Bulls take on #18 Louisville Wednesday night back at the Sun Dome, then head to #17 Memphis on Gasparilla Saturday.