Cincinnati, OH – The Cincinnati Bearcats upset the 17th ranked San Diego State Aztecs in overtime 71-62. This was a close fought battle that saw each team shoot under 35 percent in the first half as neither team could get in any offensive rhythm. However, after the half each team made their respective adjustments and started to come alive, each shooting over 50 percent in the second half.
The Bearcats looked like they were going to pull out a victory in regulation, up four with 17 seconds remaining until freshman Aztec guard Trey Kell came down and hit a three pointer. Cincinnati Guard Troy Caupain was fouled and only converted 1-of-2 free throws. With the Bearcats only up two, Aztec star forward Winston Shepard got the ball and drove into the paint drawing a controversial foul, and converted both free throws to force overtime. In overtime, Cincinnati refused to lose, shooting 100 percent from the field and going 9-for-10 from the free throw line to pull away. Tonight marks the 16th straight home non-conference victory for the Bearcats.
In a total team effort for Cincinnati, junior 6’10” forward Octavius Ellis came away as the most impressive finishing with eight points, nine rebounds, four blocks, and two steals. Ellis has the length and athleticism to compete with anyone on a national level and the motor to match those physical gifts. While he is somewhat raw on the offensive end, his shooting form was good and he showed no hesitation to shoot the ball when he needed to. On the defensive end Ellis is a terror. He has length and a good aggression always trying to create a turnover. Ellis needs to improve his offensive game, specifically adding a handful of post moves to rely on. If he can manage that feat, Cincinnati may have a very special player on their hands.
Moving forward Cincinnati is going to have their ups and downs this season. There is no question the Bearcats have the defense to compete with anyone in the country. However, the offensive end is going to be a struggle as they lack a true ball handler and aren’t a great passing team in general. On the inside, they have talent in Ellis, freshmen Shaq Thomas and Gary Clark, and junior Coreontae DeBerry, however, they can’t seem to consistently feed them inside.
Leading the way for the Aztecs tonight was Naismith Trophy Top 50 Watch List member, Winston Shepard. The 6’8” junior forward finished the evening with 17 points, four rebounds, five assists, and five turnovers. Shepard has good size and a good skill set however, he didn’t seem to take over the game like one would expect from a player with his preseason honors. Shepard did most of his damage in transition and from the free throw line, where he went 5-for-5. On the defensive end Shepard moved his feet well and seemed to always be in control of his man. He seemed to be into the game attitude wise, however, he needs to be more aggressive with the basketball as he is their star.
For the Aztecs, tonight wasn’t all bad in the big picture. This was a tough road game in a very rowdy environment that should better prepare them for later on the in the season. They competed in this game despite a lackluster performance by their second leading scorer, senior Dwayne Polee II. The Aztec defense, much like the Bearcat defense, is going to allow them to remain in games when their offense is struggling, however, they are going to need to find consistent back court play that can limit the turnovers and provide consistent shot making ability in order to make any real noise come March.
Cincinnati will look to continue their streak of non-conference home victories Saturday against VCU, while San Diego State will make their way back home to take on the Ball State Cardinals.
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