BRENDON D. MILLER – CAMEN MEDIA – MARCH 21, 2015 – LOUISVILLE
Perfection. Vince Lombardi once said, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch
excellence.” Excellence is what the CATS exhibited today in the Derby City to end the University of Cincinnati’s season at 23 and 11, and advance to the Sweet Sixteen. The win moves the CATS to 36 and 0, the first time in the HISTORY of the NCAA that a team has reach such heights. Perfection for the CATS, this game was not. The CATS again, as has become the norm, started slowly, actually very slowly, hitting on only 3 of their first 15 shots, on the way to shooting only 34.5% (10 – 29) in the first half. The Bearcats came out with a great defensive effort, and the CATS matched the intensity with a great defensive stand to force a shot clock violation at 18:15 with Cincy not getting off a shot. Points were at a premium with the score being 4 to 4 at the 15:48 media timeout and 9 to 6 at the 12:34 media timeout, following a Jermaine Sanders three for Cincy. The CATS finally got off the three point “0fer” at 9:24 on a three from Aaron Harrison to tie the score at 13, which seemed to jump start the CATS on offense. The CATS led 17 to 16 at the 7:34 media timeout, but Cincy again pulled ahead 22 to 21 on a jumper by Farad Cobb to force Cal to call a timeout at 4:46. Cincy then took its last lead at 3:42 at 24 to 21 with a steal by Troy Caupin and dunk by Shaq Thomas. The CATS then turned it to finish the half on a 10 – 0 run, highlighted by, another monster slam by Willie Cauley-Stein, destined to be a SportsCenter top 10, that whipped the Big Blue Nation in the KFC Yum Center into a frenzy. Aaron Harrison capped the run with a three from the right wing at :42 to set the halftime score of 31 to 24. As the Bearcats walked off the floor you could see the disappointment in their body language, as they knew that they had played as well as they could play and executed their game plan perfectly, but were still down 7.
The CATS were led in scoring the first half by Karl-Anthony Towns with 8 points. Trey Lyles posted 6 points and 6 rebounds and Tyler Ulis had 4 points and 3 assists with no turnovers. Cincinnati was led by Coreontae DeBerry with 6 hard earned points in the paint. Cincy shot an excellent 42.3% (11- 26) in the half, but the difference was the free throw line where Kentucky shot 9 for 11, while the Bearcats did not reach the line, as the CATS only committed 4 fouls in the half. The score was tied 5 times with 7 lead changes.
The second half began with Cincinnati again bringing the intensity and cutting the CATS lead to 3 twice. The first was at 33-30 at the 16:54 mark on two Troy Caupain free throws following a questionable Technical Foul on Aaron Harrison for a confrontation with Octavious Ellis, and the second at 35-32 on a jumper by Ellis at 15:40. As has been the case all year, the CATS superior talent and numbers began to come for the fore during the last ten minutes which is winning time. Seth Davis tweeted, “Cats know their opponent will be dog tired the last 10 minutes, and especially the last 5. Fresh legs + long arms = winning time.” Not a Seth Davis fan, but true words, very true. The Line of Demarcation for the CATS to turn it on in games has been the 10:00 mark, and that is when Andrew Harrison, a non-factor in the first half, took over with a drive and layup at 9:32 to put the CATS up for the first time by double figures at 46-35, and another driving layup at 8:32 to put the CATS up 48-37 and conversion of the “and 1” made it 49-37, and the margin would not ever be below double figures again.
The lead climbed to 19 at the 1:43 mark, and the final margin was 13 at 64-51.
As the tournament plays out, it is clear that Tyler Ulis is the heartbeat of this team. I made the comment to those around me during the game that several other CATS may have better NBA prospects, but you see, now that we are in the tournament, who is playing the most minutes. Tyler played 15 minutes in the first half and 19 minutes in the second half for a total of 34 for the game, no other CAT played over 29 minutes. Tyler had 9 points, 5 assists and 3 steals, but most importantly 0 turnovers against Cincy’s steady pressure. Cal said in post game that Tyler and Andrew love playing together, and want to be in the game together, and this has made the lineup of having Tyler, Andrew, Aaron, Trey and either Karl-Anthony and/or Willie in the game together a winner. Aaron Harrison led the scoring with 13, and Trey Lyles, playing more in the power forward role, put up a double-double posting 11 and 11.
The CATS blocked 9 shots and ruled the foul line by going 20 for 28 while the Bearcats shot 9 for 14, an advantage of 11 points. Perfection that game was not, however, the record is, and it is simply awesome to see the Excellence the CATS are catching in the Pursuit of that Perfection.
36 and 0, now on to Cleveland we go!!!