Thomas paces Bearcats past UIC, Scores 15
Basketball is back in Cincinnati.
The Bearcats tipped off the 2023-2024 season on Monday night with a 9:00 pm tip off against the UIC Flames out of the Missouri Valley Conference. The news off the court surrounded the waiver appeals of Aziz Bandaogo and Jamille Reynolds as both watched from the bench in street clothes, but everything else was all about the excitement surrounding Wes Miller's third season and the roster that he had put together to go compete in year 1 as a member of the Big 12 conference.
Cincinnati got off to a slow start as UIC jumped out to a 9-4 lead at the 16:45 mark of the first half on 4 of 6 shooting. Back to back baskets by Dan Skillings Jr and Simas Lukosius pulled the Cats to within 1, 9-8, at the under 16 media stop. Cincinnati started 4-10 from the field but kept the defensive intensity up.
The next four minutes would provide very little excitement as we watched both teams go through scoring droughts that lasted over 3 minutes. A CJ Fredrick 3 at the 11:30 mark ended a scoring drought that had lasted 3:30. Jizzle James scored his first career basket as a Bearcat on an and one and the Bearcats led 15-13 with 10:56 remaining in the first half.
Photo by: Ryan Luster
Cincinnati would eventually find the rhythm on offense.
CJ Fredrick knocked down his second three of the half and sparked a 9-0 run over 1:53. The highlight play of the run was a dunk by John Newman III with the shot clock expiring. Newman took his man off the dribble on the baseline, rose up, and threw it down with authority in traffic. With 7:03 remaining in the half, Cincinnati had pulled away for a 26-18 lead.
UIC wasn't ready to give in just yet.
The Flames used an 8-4 run over the next 3:18 to cut the Cincinnati lead to 30-26 at the final media stop of the half. Despite 7 turnovers by the Flames, they were still in the game. Through the first 16 minutes, UIC managed to shoot 50% from the field and were tied with UC in rebounds, with 13.
CJ Fredrick knocked down his 3rd three of the half with 1:57 remaining in the half to push the Bearcats lead out to 7, 33-26. UIC managed to trim the Bearcats lead to 5, 35-30, with 58 seconds left in the half but Day Day Thomas made a 3 and Dan Skillings Jr scored his 6th point of the half to give the Bearcats a 40-30 halftime lead.
Photo by: Ryan Luster
Fredrick led the Cats with 11 first half points on 3-4 shooting from outside and 4-5 shooting from the field.
Cincinnati scored 14 points off 8 UIC turnovers and out-rebounded the Flames 17-15 through the first 20 minutes.
The Cats would start the second half missing their first 5 shots and made just one of their first 8 field goal attempts.
UIC outscored the Bearcats 8-3 and trailed 43-38 with 15:14 left in the game. Toby Okani's 15 points were a large reason for UIC hanging around.
As we saw in the first half, Cincinnati's defense would eventually settle in as UIC missed 7 of their next 8 shots. Cincinnati responded with a 7-0 run over 2:48 and extended their lead back out to double digits, 50-38, on a Dan Skillings lay in.
Jizzle James extended the Bearcat lead to 14 with 11:36 remaining as UIC was in the midst of a scoring drought that had lasted 4:05.
UIC answered with a 6-0 run over the next 1:27 but Simas Lukosius knocked down his first 3 of the game to push the Bearcats lead back out to double digits, 55-44, with 8:55 remaining in the game. Lukosius was 0-5 from 3 prior.
A 6-0 run by the Bearcats over the next 1:53 would extend the lead to 61-46 with just over 6 minutes remaining.
Photo by: Ryan Luster
UIC would make their next 3 shots to cut the Bearcats lead to 11, 67-56, with 1:48 left in the game.
When the final horn sounded, the Bearcats walked off the floor with a 69-58 win.
Final Stats and Numbers:
- Wes Miller talked all summer about Day Day Thomas and his ability to get to the rim and create with his speed. The JUCO product led the Bearcats in scoring in game 1 with 15 points, 3 asssits, and 3 steals.
- Dan Skillings Jr finished with 13 points, 8 rebounds and 2 assists on 5 of 12 shooting.
- CJ Fredrick made his Cincinnati debut and knocked down 3 of 6 shots from outside and 4 of 8 field goal attempts for 11 points.
- Cincinnati got clean looks from outside, but simply couldn't convert those tonight as tney finished 5 for 25 from outside. The positive? Perimeter defense at the other end was very good. UIC shot 2 of 16 from the 3 point line.
- Defensively, UC forced 15 turnover and converted those turnovers in to 20 points. On a night where shots weren't falling, the defense put them in a position to avoid any type of opening night upset.
- As good as the perimeter defense was, defense at the rim and in the paint was a struggle at times as the UC defense allowed 40 points in the paint. The Bearcats did do a good job of getting down hill and scoring at the rim. They finished with 44 points in the paint.
- UC shot 52% from the field in the first half but were limited to 32% from the field in the second half.
All things considered, this was a good opening night win for UC as they try to build chemistry leading up to the gauntlet that is the Big 12. It was tough to watch Jamille Reynolds and Aziz Bandaogo sit on the sidelines and have to watch but that process should hopefully be over soon. This is a different team with those two but the players who played the game did a lot of good things tonight and there should still be excitement with what was on display tonight.
Home v Detroit Mercy Friday November 10th at 7:00
Postgame Pressers with Wes Miller, CJ Fredrick, Day Day Thomas