Cincinnati's season ends with 85-81 loss to Indiana State

 Playing their first true road game in 21 days, the Bearcats travelled to Terre Haute, Indiana to take on the Indiana State Sycamores with a trip to the NIT Semi Finals on the line. 

(Photos: Taylor Keeton)

Simas Lukosius finished with a game high 26 points. making 6-of 14 three-point attempts, but it wasn't enough as the Bearcats fell to the Sycamore by a final score of 85-81.

Freshman Jizzle James scored 13 first half points and finished with 21 for the game. Dan Skillings finished with a double-double, 12 points, 12 rebounds. 

The difference in the game was Indiana State's ability to force turnovers and capitalize in transition.

Indiana State scored 19 points off ten Cincinnati second half turnovers and out-scored the Bearcats 22-10 in fast break points. 

Wes Miller acknowledged his team's second half defensive struggles.

" I did not like how we defended them in the second half. I thought we didn't get back in transition as well as we should. We didn't defend the three very well."

Cincinnati led 36-32 at the half but were outscored 53-45 in the second half. 

Indiana State had four players finish in double figures, led by Robbie Avila's 22 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds. 

Ryan Conwell battled foul trouble but still managed to finish with 18 points, followed by Jayson Kent with 16 points, and Isaiah Swope with 12 points. Kent was perfect for the game, making all five field goal attempts and both three point attempts. 

Cincinnati struggled to defend the high ball screen and ISU took advantage by making 13-of-30 three-point attempts. Simas Lukosius got going from deep late to help the Cats finish 10-of-22.

ISU won the free throw battle as well, making 20-of-27 attempts. Cincinnati finished the game 11-of-17. Two of Indiana State's free throws were a result of a technical foul on Wes Miller.

"Everybody that's followed our program this year, I've only got two technicals all year."

One of those was at home against Houston within the first four minutes of the game, that Wes acknowledged he did not want. This one was different after multiple no call inside, including a no call on an Aziz Bandaogo dunk attempt.

"The one I got tonight, I wanted, and you guys can read between the lines on the rest of it."

With the loss, UC ends their season 22-15, while the Sycamores improve to 31-6.

"I'm really proud to be the coach of this team," Miller said. "I'm excited about the future of this program and this group did a lot to set some foundation that I'll think of forever."

Game Recap

Jizzle James scored four quick points to give the Bearcats an early 7-4 advantage. James' second bucket was followed by a two minute, 16 second UC scoring drought as Indiana State tied the score at 7 at the 15:53 mark of the first half. 

After consecutive baskets by Simas Lukosius and Dan Skillings, ISU answered with a 6-0 run over :30 seconds to take a 13-11 lead.

Robbie Avila drained his second three of the half and Isaiah Swope made three free throws after a foul on Skillings to give ISU the lead. 

Jizzle James' jumper from the free throw line, following John Newman's second three of the half, gave Cincinnati a 17-15 lead with 11:37 remaining in the half. 

James extended his scoring total to nine on a tough take to the rim and finish. 

Dan Skillings gave the Bearcats a 25-20 lead at the 7:19 mark after a dunk in transition off a James' assist. 

An 8-2 Indiana State run cut the UC lead to 31-30 with 4:22 remaining in the half. 

Ryan Conwell and Jayson Kent both made three's during the ISU run as Cincinnati continued to struggle to defend the high ball screen, leaving both wide open for three point attempts. 

Jamille Reynolds' three at the 2:34 mark gave Cincinnati a 34-30 lead and ended an over three minute scoring drought. 

Reynolds extended the UC lead to 36-30 as Cincinnati started to gain some momentum heading in to the half.

Defensively, Cincinnati clamped down defensively, holding Indiana State scoreless from the 4:28 mark until there were just :11 seconds remaining in the half.

Isaiah Swope ended the ISU drought with a layup to cut the Bearcat lead to 36-32 at the half. 

UC opened the second half making both field goal attempts as well as all six free throw attempts to extend their lead to 46-39 at the first media stop.

Bandaogo went 4-for-4 from the line during the run, after missing both attempts in the first half. 

Dan Skillings extended the UC lead to 50-42 but four straight makes for ISU cut the UC lead to 53-49 at the 14:07 mark. 

Wes Miller called a timeout after Ryan Conwell's straight line drive for a layup to discuss his team's defensive effort. 

Trailing 56-50, Ryan Conwell, Jayson Kent, and Robbie Avila made three straight three's to tie the score at 59 with 10:55 remaining in the game. 

ISU made five of their first six 3-point attempts to open the second half. 

Isaiah Swope's three with 9:44 left gave ISU a 64-63 lead.

After a Jizzle James jumper, Indiana State answered with an 8-0 run over 1:05 to give them their biggest lead of the game, 72-65.

Cincinnati turned the ball over three times and went scoreless for over two minutes as ISU was able to get out in transition and get easy lay ups to create separation.

Wes Miller was called for a technical foul, allowing ISU to extend their lead to 74-65.

The Bearcats fought back and cut the lead to 74-70 with 5:48 left, following a Lukosius three and Bandaogo dunk.

Cincinnati inched even closer after Jizzle James found Aziz Bandaogo for an oop dunk and foul.

With the score tied at 77 with just over a minute left, Robbie Avila knocked down a three to give ISU a three point lead. Cincinnati had multiple opportunities prior to that to take the lead, but a James turnover and missed shots set up the Avila heroics.

Indiana State missed eight of their final nine shots, but did just enough from the free throw line to hold off the Bearcats' comeback attempt. 

 Final Thoughts:

End of season losses are always hard but even harder when you feel like you played well enough to win but didn't capitalize during key stretches of the game. The Bearcats had multiple good looks at the rim with the score tied, as well as down two, during the final minute of the game but simply couldn't make one last play or come up with one last stop.

The future is bright if Miller can keep this group together. Four of five starters return and the trio of James, Lukosius, and Skillings have all solidified themselves as potential all league caliber players during the post season.

James averaged 23 ppg in two games as the starting point guard and Simas Lukosius has proven to be the alpha and go to scorer in key situations that this team needs in the Big 12. 

There will almost certainly be movement this off season with guys electing transfer in and out. but the nucleus is stronger than it has ever been. 

 Postgame Reactions

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