When Sean Kilpatrick watched footage of Sunday’s lopsided loss at Notre Dame, he felt like he was watching the wrong guys in the Cincinnati uniforms.
“It didn’t look like us at all,” Sean told me. “It didn’t even feel right. Honestly, it didn’t even feel like I had a Bearcat jersey on – it just felt like I had a shirt on.”
The Bearcats only scored 41 points – their lowest total in Mick Cronin’s seven years as head coach – and JaQuon Parker was the only Cincinnati player to finish in double digits with 12. Kilpatrick scored a season-low 6 points, and Cashmere Wright failed to score for only the second time in his last 113 games.
“We’ve really played one bad game this year,” said Coach Cronin. “Our three best players average 41 points a game and they got 18. When that happens, you’re going to be in trouble.
“We need to get our main guys healthy and playing well because they’re the answer. I get a lot of questions about production from Cheikh Mbodj, or David Nyarsuk, or this guy or that guy – we have to make sure that we’re getting Cash, JaQuon, and SK open and getting the ball where they can make plays for us. That’s the answer. For every team in basketball – high school, college, or pro – your best players have to play well or you’re not going to win. So that’s my focus. I have to do everything that I can to help them play well.”
Kilpatrick’s scoring ability is especially vital to Cincinnati’s success. Sean is averaging 19.4 points in the Bearcats’ wins this year, but only 13.6 in their losses. The junior guard is fourth in the Big East in scoring at 17.6 per game, despite being the focal point of every opponent’s defensive scouting report.
“It can be frustrating but then again, I like it,” said Kilpatrick. “It’s making me a better player and it means that people respect me for what I do on the court. But it’s tough. It’s one of the hardest things that I’ve ever had to overcome because this is the highest level of basketball that I’ve ever played and to have two or three guys guarding you is really difficult.”
Despite the constant defensive harassment, Kilpatrick has managed to deliver. This week, Sean was named one of 30 candidates for the 2013 Naismith College Player of the Year award and ESPN’s Jay Bilas selected Kilpatrick among his six “most clutch players” in college basketball.
(You can watch the Bilas clip here: http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=espn:8989382)
“That’s a strong statement coming from someone like him,” Sean told me. “I thank my team for that because they put me in those types of situations where I have the ball at the end of games. I just try to make the right plays and whatever is open is open.”
After dropping five of their last six games, the Bearcats are desperately in need of a win on Saturday vs. UConn to solidify their hold on a NCAA Tournament berth. But Kilpatrick says he is not the least bit concerned with “bubble” talk.
“All we can control is what happens in the next game and that’s what we’re focusing on,” said Kilpatrick. “We’re not worrying about the tournament or anything like that.
“We know exactly what we’re capable of. When things aren’t going right, a lot of people aren’t going to be behind us, but we have each other and that’s the best thing about this team.”
Hopefully, we’ll all recognize the guys in the Cincinnati uniforms on Saturday.
I’d love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@Bengals.nfl.net
If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard
And I’m on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dan.hoard.1