Cincinnati senior Justin Jackson has put this team on his back in recent weeks. Last night Jackson continue that, with a huge stat line 17 points, six rebounds, five blocks and five steals. Jackson play helped UC to a 65-57 win over SMU in both teams American Athletic Conference opener at Fifth Third Arena.
"Coach needs me to be a scorer this year, so that is what I am doing," said Jackson. "Last year my role was to play defense and be the energy guy. That is what I did, I just do what Coach asks me to do."
It was a game of runs early in the game, which coach could out smart whom? You had coach Mick Cronin on one end and legendary coach Larry Brown on the other. Behind 4-0 early, the Bearcats made a 9-0 run in less than four minutes to take the lead, 9-4, with 14:49 left in the first half. The Mustangs responded with a 12-0 run to take a 18-12 lead with over eight minutes left in the opening half.
Bearcats would then answer with a 12-0 run, to take a 26-22 lead with 2:52 until the half. UC carried a 32-30 lead into the locker room. In the second half UC had just enough to pull out the victory with making a single three-point basket.
"We were able to pull away in the second half without making a three-point shot against a team who forces you to make threes," said Cronin. "In their only two losses, they gave up double-digit threes. So I thought we were going to have to make some shots. If you would have told me that Sean Kilpatrick was going to go 1-for-7 and we were not going to make a three in the second half, I would have told you that we would probably get beat. So, I was really proud of our guys for grinding it out; getting to the foul line; displaying the toughness that they displayed defensively and grinding out the victory."
Even on a slow night for Kilpatrick he finished with 13 points, six rebounds, while Shaquille Thomas and Jermaine Sanders added 10 points for the Bearcats. Kilpatrick touched on his bad shooting night.
"It is how the defense is playing me, but then again, they are just rolling in and out," Kilpatrick explained. "Great shooters are not going to hit every shot every night. That is something I need to continue to keep learning about. My teammates are going to tell me to keep shooting. I am going to get the shots that I want, it is just that they are falling in and out. They are great looks. But if I am down on myself even a little bit, this guy (Justin Jackson) slapped me in the head and told me to keep shooting. That's a good thing."
Bearcats head on a 2-game road trip, starting Saturday, Jan. 4th against Memphis at Noon. Then close out the trip against Houston on Tuesday, Jan. 7th. at 9 p.m. Check out the full footage player post game conference from last nights game below.