farad cobb

Part 2 of 3-Game Payback Tour Complete; Bearcats Backhand Tulsa, 56-47



Can I get a scowl, a left-handed fist pump and a “That’s what I’m talkin’ about” from you? Farad Cobb, Larry Davis, Mick Cronin and the rest of the Cincinnati Basketball program deserve those three things right about now.

Fifteen years after the Tulsa Golden Hurricane knocked UC out of the NCAA Tournament (the year Kenyon Martin broke his leg and the Committee saw fit to relegate the Bearcats to a #2 seed matched up with 7-seed/#12-in-the-country Tulsa in the second round!), UC may have in effect done the same to Frank Haith’s team Wednesday night.

Led by your boy “Farad Salad” (Cobb), who poured in a career-high 22 points (with 2 steals and nary a turnover), the Bearcats went down to Tulsa and suffocated the first place team in the American Conference in front of their home crowd. The final score was UC 56, Tulsa 47, but it should’ve been worse for the Golden Hurricane because seven of Tulsa’s points came on unplanned bank shots and the referees negated an Oc Ellis tip-in on suspicion of goaltending. So, the adjusted score would be UC 58, Tulsa 40. Beat Down.

Lock Down

Yet another Cincinnati road win over a tough opponent due to squeeze-the-life-out-of-you defense. Remember the post I wrote looking back over all the big road wins in the Cronin Era? Add this one to the list. Tulsa shot a wiggy-wack 34 percent from the field, and its two best players, James Woodard and Shaq Harrison, shot 7-for-28.

Balance & Options

In addition to Cobb’s diabolical double-deuce, Davis received strong contributions from Ellis (13 boards, 4 get-that-shit-outta-here’s), Troy “Clyde” Caupain (12 points, 6 boards, 2 dishes and no turnovers), Gary Clark (3-3 FG, 7 points, 8 snares and 2 helpers) and Kevin Johnson (8 points, 2 offensive rebounds and just one giveaway).


This was an opportunity for the Bearcats to pretty much prove their worth for this year’s NCAA Tournament. Coming into the game, UC’s RPI was right around 50, a precarious number if history serves as any indicator. Well, after dispatching of Tulsa on the road, that ranking is currently in the mid-30’s, and UC now has six wins (three on the road) over the RPI Top 50. (Ohio State has only one, by the way. One. And they’re ranked!)

Is UC a lock for The Dance now? Perhaps. But Davis and his crew don’t care about that. One more leg on the Payback Tour to complete: Sunday at noon (EST) vs. Memphis (regular CBS!). The Tigers shellacked the Bearcats way back when, 63-50. It’s Jermaine Sanders’ Senior Day and it’s a chance for more payback. The way this team has been focused on scouting reports on defense, attacking on offense and extra effort on the glass, you’ve gotta like UC’s chances of a victory in Maine’s final home game as a Cincinnati Bearcat.

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Hall-Of-Famer Larry Brown Can’t Figure Out Cobb, Bearcats

I heard a rumor that after his No. 23 SMU Mustangs lost to the Cincinnati Bearcats (for the second time this season) Thursday night, Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown mistakenly ordered a “Farad salad” at a Dallas diner.

The waitress, reportedly a bubbly, buxom brunette with a nose full of freckles, replied, “You want a what-now?”

Brown looked down at his menu and pointed to his meal of choice.

“Oh, a Cobb salad,” the waitress realized.

“What’d I say?” Brown wondered.

“You said ‘Farad salad,'” the cute server replied. “What’s a Farad?”

Brown forced a smirk and then dropped a couple of seltzer tablets into a glass of water as the waitress jiggled back to the kitchen.

(Okay, that story isn’t true. The truth is, I recently asked my buddy Schmidt: “Do you think when it’s all said and done, it’s gonna be called a ‘Farad salad?'” His reaction was the same as most people’s when my brain does that sort of thing: “You’re out of your mind.”)

Farad Cobb, sometimes known as “Farad salad,” torched a stout SMU defense (20th nationally in points allowed) Thursday night in Dallas, just as he did back on January 3 in Cincinnati. Cobb poured in 18 points in Cincy, and followed that up with an efficient 14 at Moody Coliseum. Overall, “Salad” is 11-for-19, including 6-for-12 from downtown, against the Mustangs (18-5, 9-2).

“Larry Brown’s gonna have nightmares about Farad Cobb,” Bearcats associate head coach Larry Davis joked.

While Cobb was a big reason why UC (16-6, 7-3, No. 25 in ESPN RPI) was able to grab an improbable road win Thursday night, a handful of other Bearcats were vital:

1) Troy “Clyde” Caupain

It’s no secret that as Troy goes, the Bearcats go. The 6’4″ point guard came up large against UConn last Thursday, sticking 8 of his 9 field goal attempts and finishing with a career-high 20 points in UC’s romp. On Sunday, Caupain only had 4 points and 2 assists in a shocking loss at East Carolina. He wasn’t aggressive at all in that game.

But Troy came to play in Dallas. He drove the lane and popped in a floater for UC’s first hoop, then confidently nailed a 3 and found Jermaine Sanders for a right-handed lay-up to give the ‘Cats an early 7-5 lead. Caupain finished with 14 points (wetted all three of his 3-point attempts), 4 rebounds, 4 assists and only two turnovers.

That’s a big-time performance out of the sophomore from Midlothian, VA.

2) Jermaine “Far Rockaway Style” Sanders

jermaine sanders cincinnati

Senior Jermaine Sanders has been key in latest UC surge

Speaking of big-time performances, how about ‘Maine Sanders? The lone senior in the rotation led UC in points (15), rebounds (9) and deflections (?), and yak-yak’ed a gigantic 3 from the corner to extend Cincinnati’s lead to 7 with 4:47 to go.

Since being inserted into the starting lineup six games ago, Sanders is averaging right around ten points and five boards per game. UC’s offensive efficiency has gone through the roof in that span. Scoring less than one point per possession for the season, the Bearcats are at 1.114 over the past six games, a clip that would rank 13th in the nation in offensive efficiency according to Teamrankings.com if that was a season-long pace. (UC is at 0.998 and ranks 153rd overall this season.)

Davis explained what Sanders brings to the table:

Click Here to Listen to Dan Hoard mention me and Larry talk about Jermaine before the East Carolina game.

3) Octavius “Oc” Ellis

After 14 points, 14 boards and 3 swats against East Carolina, “Oc” followed that output with 6 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 4 blocks against SMU on Thursday night. Brown believed Ellis was more of a factor than the numbers showed…

4) Shaq Thomas

Hip hop hooray for Shaq! The kid’s had an up-and-down season to say the least. He lost his starting spot six games ago (likely because he’s got 33 turnovers and only nine assists this season). But the New Jersey native hit three huge shots against SMU (while also contributing his customary 1-for-2 from the foul line), including an absolute heartbreaker:

UC had built a seven-point lead but saw the Mustangs cut it to three with just under 2:00 to play. With the shot clock running down, Thomas launched a 25-footer from the right wing………and canned it! Dagger! 

Coach Davis also praised Shaq for being in the right spot on offense while playing a new position (the 4 spot). Big contribution off the bench for the redshirt junior.

5) Gary Clark & Coreontae DeBerry

Clark struggled at times Thursday night, only playing 18 minutes and picking up three quick fouls to begin the second half. But the freshman still managed to grab five boards, dish out 4 assists and Bill Walton a 12-footer off the glass from the right baseline in the second half.

DeBerry, meanwhile, only logged four minutes. But the 6’9″ 280-pound behemoth was productive, converting an important jump hook late, blocking a shot and grabbing two rebounds.

Overall, the big key for UC was an encouraging display of MENTAL TOUGHNESS, adhering to the advice of Coach Davis before the Bearcats took the floor. “I wrote it on the white board before the game,” Larry said. “I knew mental toughness would be more important than physical toughness in an environment like this.”

What was head coach Mick Cronin’s advice to Davis before the game? “Defend and rebound,” Mick texted, likely using a shortcut key on his phone to send those words. The Bearcats did both: UC out-rebounded SMU 32-25 and held a team shooting nearly 50% on the season to 36.5 from the field (and 3-for-14 from deep).

Big, huge, enormous bounce back road victory for the lesson-learning Bearcats on Thursday night. According to ESPN’s calculations, UC now sits at No. 25 in the Daily RPI, putting themselves back in the picture for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. If they can pull it off, it’d be the fifth straight appearance for the program.

Next up: Saturday vs South Florida (8:00), then Tuesday at Temple (7:30). Both games will air on CBS Sports Network.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy your weekend!

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Bearcats Senior Jermaine Sanders Far Rockaways Temple To Sleep

jermaine sanders cincinnatiIf I told you that the 202nd-ranked offensive team in the nation made 20 shots and missed just six in the second half of a game, would you believe me?

I wouldn’t believe me. But I witnessed it. The Cincinnati Bearcats (12-5, 3-2) held a one-point lead at halftime over the Temple Owls, who were without senior starting point guard Will Cummings. It appeared as if I’d have to worry and yell on every possession and sweat out the rest of the game–a game UC could not afford to lose, because it would extend its losing streak to three in a row.

Then the second half started. And after a few short minutes, the game was virtually over. The Bearcats put a 21-6 run together after the break to pull away.

If you’re a long time Bearcat fan, you know this is the part where they take the foot off the gas and let the opponent back in the game. But Jermaine Sanders, the lone senior in the rotation, would have none of that. Sanders made a beautiful cut to the rim for an easy bucket off of a sweet dish from Octavius “Oc” Ellis. Two and a half minutes later, Sanders, the Far Rockaway, New York native, drained a three-pointer. One minute later, another smart cut to the basket by ‘Maine, another easy finish, this time on a dime by Farad “Fa-rield Williams” Cobb. Less than a minute later, Jermaine popped in another trey, again assisted by Cobb. The next time down the floor, Sanders crashed the offensive glass and tipped the ball into the basket, giving him a career-high 16 points to go along with six boards.

You’ve got to feel good for Jermaine. He’s the only healthy senior on this team, and he usually is not in the starting lineup. Since scoring 10 points against Middle Tennessee way back on November 28th, he hasn’t been close to double figures (his best output was 7 vs. VCU). But Jermaine has continued to play a solid, fundamental floor game on both ends every time he steps on the court. Coming into the Temple game Saturday night, ‘Maine had gone five straight games without a turnover. He did commit one against Temple, but for the season, he’s only had one game with more than one turnover (he had two against VCU).

So in 17 games, Jermaine Sanders has committed just nine turnovers. In addition to protecting the ball, ‘Maine always plays sound, scouting report defense, he always boxes out, and as he showed against Temple, he knows when to cut to the basket.

Throughout this season–his final as a Bearcat–Sanders has been steady and smart. He hasn’t forced many shots, he hasn’t hung his head and as far as I know, he has fully accepted his role on this team. And for those reasons, in addition to shooting the ball well enough over his career to help spread the floor on offense, Jermaine is an underappreciated-but-vital piece to the puzzle this season, a season in which fans, players and coaches hope includes UC’s fifth consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament.

UC ended up throttling Temple, 84-53, Saturday night in front of over 12,000 fans. Next up will be a Wednesday home game vs. Houston (7-10, 0-6) and then next Sunday on the road in Orlando against Central Florida (9-8, 2-4). (I’ll be at the UCF game.)

Thanks for reading.

(Shout out to Janis Eppensteiner. Go ‘Cats!)

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What Cincinnati Must Do (And Avoid) To Make Its 5th Straight NCAA Tournament

Coreontae DeBerry (#22) and Octavious Ellis (#2)

Coreontae DeBerry and “Oc” Ellis

After suffering its second blowout of the season on Dec. 20, this time to VCU, Cincinnati sat at 7-3 with a head coach out of commission. At that point, hearing “the Cincinnati Bearcats” called on Selection Sunday for the fifth straight season seemed unlikely.

But the Bearcats did have the home victory over #18 San Diego State in the “quality win” category. And as head coach Mick Cronin’s situation settled and associate head coach Larry Davis assumed the leadership role, UC beat the tar out of NC State in Raleigh and followed that up with a Farad-Cobb-sparked 56-50 muscle flex against arguably the best team in the American Conference, hall of famer Larry Brown’s SMU Mustangs.

Now, Cincinnati sits in the mid-30’s in the RPI. For those of you not familiar, the RPI stands for Ratings Percentage Index. It’s a computer ranking system that takes into account your winning percentage, your opponents’ winning percentage and your opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage, as well as a few other factors. The NCAA Tournament selection committee looks to RPI when deciding whether or not to invite a fringe team to the Dance. If your RPI ranking is 40 or below, you’re almost a shoe-in.

So here’s the issue for the now-Larry-Davis-led Bearcats: The American Conference is, all things considered, a pile of garbage. Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh. Let’s just say that UC will have a hard time boosting its RPI ranking the rest of the way, and it will desperately need to guard against that ranking dropping like a sack of potatoes.

Tonight’s game (Tuesday, 7:00, ESPNU: Mike Couzens [who??] and Brooke Weisbrod on the call) will without a doubt hurt UC’s RPI ranking, win or lose. East Carolina comes to Fifth Third Arena sitting at #283. Cincinnati simply cannot lose this game. It’s out of the question. And so we’ll be watching on pins and needles, shoulders tense and fists clenched, sphincters coiled, until, hopefully, the game ends with more points on UC’s side of the scoreboard. And that will be the case in nearly every game the rest of the regular season.

Take a look at the RPI for each team in the American Conference:

Team RPI
Temple 33 Won at UConn
Cincinnati 34 They have Farad Cobb
SMU 39 My pick to win league
Tulsa 40 (I don’t know how)
Xavier 49 UC’s final non-conference game
UConn 84 Huskies usually wayyyy higher
Tulane 103 Sleeper team
Memphis 105 9 new players
South Florida 199 Get them away from us already
Houston 228 New coach is Kelvin Sampson
Central Fla 238 Pesky but not very good
East Carolina 283 RPI-killer

After battling Jeff Lebo’s East Carolina Pirates, the Bearcats then go to UConn (#84) and Memphis (#105). It’s tough to ask an inexperienced team to grab a sweep on the road, especially against UConn and Memphis, regardless of what kind of seasons the Huskies and Tigers are having to this point. But sh*t, man, you can’t afford to lose to teams near the bottom or outside of the Top 100.

The good news is that the Temple Owls surprised everybody by waxing Kansas by 25 a week and a half ago, so their RPI should hover in the 30’s as long as Fran Dunphy’s boys don’t lose to somebody from the bottom of the standings either.

In my estimation, here’s what has to happen for the Bearcats to make it to the NCAA Tournament (if Oc Ellis and the crew do not win the conference tournament):

1) Undefeated at home
2) Beat Xavier
3) 3 or 4 losses at the most (2 loss max to UConn/Tulane/Memphis)
4) 0 losses to USF, HOU, UCF, ECU

Gonna be a lot of “sweatin’ ’em out,” huh?

We continue the journey tonight, at home, against East Carolina. A loss is out of the question. And that will be the theme for nearly every game the rest of the way. But that can be a good thing, because if you’re playing for your life for two months, and you do sneak into the brackets, you’re tested and you’ve built enough toughness to win some more games.

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Postgame Podcast: Cincinnati 56, SMU 50 (8:18)

Defense + toughness + Farad Cobb = a quality home win against arguably the best team in the American Conference.

I’ll tell you all about it…

Postgame Podcast: UC 56, SMU 50 (8:18)

Click Here to Listen

Rightclick Here to Download

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Next Day Reaction: Bearcats Handle Adversity, Knock Off #19 San Diego State, 71-62 (OT)

Coreontae DeBerry (#22) and Octavious Ellis (#2)

Coreontae DeBerry (#22) and Octavius Ellis (#2)

After facing and handling adversity last Saturday night but losing by one point in Lincoln to the Nebraska Cornhuskers, Mick Cronin’s Cincinnati Bearcats faced and handled even more adversity Wednesday night, this time coming out on top against a gigantic San Diego State team, 71-62, in overtime at Fifth Third Arena. (Click Here for Highlights)

Never ever underestimate the power of facing and handling adversity. Ever. I believe the toughness built by a team (or by yourself in your own life) in the face of adversity is much more important than, say, figuring out “offensive woes,” despite what certain people in the Cincinnati area think.

This is why I focused on four positives from UC’s difficult-to-swallow loss to Nebraska instead of throwing my hands up and bitching about the usual Cincinnati-bitchfest things (The list: 1) Head coach Mick Cronin recruits athletes, not basketball players, 2) Cronin doesn’t recruit shooters, 3) Cronin needs to hire an offensive coordinator). In fact, to further hammer home why it makes much more sense to be positive and patient and to maintain a big-picture, it’s-a-long-season perspective, let’s revisit my four positives from the Nebraska loss:

1) Big Stride From the Ole Miss Game: The young Bearcats didn’t know yet what it would take to compete against a big, experienced team like the Rebels, and allowed Andy Kennedy’s team to shoot 49% from the field while forcing just 6 turnovers. UC packed a better lunch against Nebraska, forcing 22 turnovers and holding the Huskers to 32.7% shooting.

Troy Caupain (#10)

Troy Caupain (#10)

2) Troy Caupain’s Leadership: The 19-year-old from Midlothian, VA laid an egg against Ole Miss, but played with confidence and strength against Nebraska, gutting out a team-high 45 minutes with 5 steals, 6 assists and just 2 turnovers.

3) ***Resiliency Points Gained***: Even though it was an L on the record, battling through a 19-6 early-game deficit with your starting center in foul trouble to cut it to 23-21 at the half registered a gang of points on the “Resiliency Scale.”

4) Cronin’s Masterful Matchup Zone Defense: 22 turnovers, just 3 team assists for Nebraska. For an inexperienced team, to be able to dial up that type of defense keeps the scouting reports simple and allows the kids to focus more so on little things like not fouling as they mature as basketball players.

Now that we’ve re-visited these positives, let’s take a look at how they translated to the next game on the schedule.

You take a look at what 19th-ranked San Diego State has been through to this point in the season: The Aztecs beat a high-powered BYU team in Maui. Steve Fisher’s team then went toe-to-toe with #3 Arizona, eventually losing by just two points.

Fisher sent 6’7″ and 6’8″ at UC’s guards in the backcourt all night. This team is tall, long, athletic and chiseled. I sat 5th row center for this ballgame, and early on, it looked like the Bearcats would never find a way to score enough points to stay in the game, let alone keep this enormous team off the offensive glass, out of the paint or from snapping one of the rims.

After a J.J. O’Brien layup with 12:40 to go in the first half, SDSU led 13-6. Then, Deshaun Morman’s jumper hit the side of the backboard.


But, UC (toughness) got the offensive board and then 6-9, 280-pound junior-college transfer Coreontae DeBerry stuck it in the hole twice, pulling the Bearcats to within 3.

Then, after two free throws by the Aztecs created an 18-12 deficit for UC, Shaq Thomas and the ‘Cats answered with a 10-2 run to head to the locker room with a 2-point lead.

Staring that 19-6 deficit in the face in Lincoln, pulling together as a unit and clawing themselves back in to that game last Saturday instilled the belief in the Bearcat players’ minds that they possess the necessary fortitude. Again, as I’ll continue to harp away, never underestimate those resiliency points gained….especially when the team hasn’t been through the wars yet. (See also: Ohio State football this year.)

On to the second half, and on to more adversity. After an Angelo Chol (and no, I don’t have any idea how that guy’s name is Angelo Chol) dunk gave San Diego State a 43-38 lead, we hit the under 8:00 media timeout. Alright boys, you’ve fought hard, but you’re down by five and the Aztecs are starting to impose their will on the game.

We’ll start with #2 on my list of positives from the Nebraska loss. With the shot clock running down for the 89th time in the game, Caupain drove the lane, scored and got fouled. Huge, tide-stemming bucket. Now we’ll move to #4 on my list. Cronin’s matchup zone forced SDSU into a turnover. Jermaine Sanders then Far-Rockaway-New-Yorked a game-tying 3-pointer from the corner.

That’s how you respond!

Farad Cobb (#21)

Farad Cobb (#21)

From there, the Bearcats played smart on both ends. Junior guard Farad Cobb came up large on the offensive end (12 points, all after halftime), displaying the cojones grande that the team desperately needed. After freshman Gary Clark’s smooth end-of-shotclock finish, UC had built a 5-point lead with under a minute to go. But wait…..

More adversity! Much, much more adversity. First of all, the Aztecs (28% from 3-point range on the season) came down and banged in two three-point shots, sandwiched around two free throws by sophomore Kevin Johnson. Then, as UC held a 57-55 lead with 10 seconds to play, Aztec junior Winston Shepard drove wildly to the basket, tripped over his own feet and lost the ball out of bounds. But wait! A foul was called on Johnson! And, of course, Shepard bangs in both free throws. We’re going to overtime.

Your first thought is, “That was a horrrrrrrrible call.” Your second thought: “Shit, UC has to win this game twice???”

The Bearcat players could have folded or anguished over what could have been. But Caupain banded the crew together and led the way in overtime.

Add about five more “resiliency points” to the collective psyche of the 2014-15 Cincinnati basketball team. Better yet, add a quality non-conference win against a ranked opponent to this team’s NCAA Tournament resume.

You can either focus on stuff like offensive woes or missed free throws, or you can focus on the big picture. And in my mind, for this particular group of kids, I love the big picture potential. Remember, this is only Game 9. Eighty percent of the players in UC’s rotation are sophomores or didn’t play Division I college basketball last season. We’ve yet to see what the finished product will be with this group, and we may not see it until Game 20….or maybe even Game 45 (next season). But I’ll tell you this: Because of the coaching staff’s ability to teach and preach defense, when this team reaches its offensive potential (and despite what a lot of folks around Cincinnati may think, there is a great deal of offensive potential), it will be THE most dangerous team Mick has had as head coach at Cincinnati.

Thanks for reading. Stay positive. Stay patient.

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