Bearcats had the formula, not the fire power

Center Willie Cauley-Stein of the Kentucky Wildcats dunks on Cincinnati Bearcats forward Quadric Moore during the first half of the game at KFC Yum! Center on Saturday, March 21, 2015 in Louisville , Ky. UK leads Cincinnati 31-24 at halftime. Photo by Michael Reaves

By Kyle Arensdorf

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If there was ever a game evident of the Cats’ ability to flip a switch when the time calls, it was Saturday’s third round matchup.

Cincinnati and UK played like the same team for 25 minutes.

The Cats didn’t take their first lead until the 8:34 mark of the first half. And the Bearcats led the rebounding battle for a large portion of the first half. At one point they led the Cats in bench points 12-2.

They were beating UK at its own game.

But with 2:55 remaining in the first half, down 23-24, Willie Cauley-Stein was fouled on a dunk that has probably made it around the internet a few times already. And the flip got switched. The Bearcats failed to score again in the half, falling behind by seven as the Cats continued an 8-0 run to a 31-24 halftime lead.

“I guess that’s why (head coach John Calipari) wants me to dunk everything,” Cauley-Stien said after UK’s 64-51 victory.

Despite the strong finish to the half, however, the Cats kept letting Cincinnati hang around. But UK seemed to say “enough is enough” with 12 minutes remaining in the game. The Bearcats played just as well as they had been, UK just shifted into another gear.

The Cats have definitely sputtered in their first two games of the NCAA Tournament. It took nearly 15 game minutes to get on track against Hampton Friday, and Saturday UK shot a lowly 37 percent from the field.

But as Calipari pointed to in his postgame comments, when you’re team shoots 37 percent and you still win by double digits, what is there to worry about?

Not so fast. There is one thing.

The Bearcats had a winning game plan Saturday. They hammered it in the post, they got offensive boards, but most importantly they got plenty of open looks from beyond the three point line — which is a noted giant-killer in the NCAA Tournament. They just couldn’t make them.

Cincinnati finished 2-14 from beyond the arc, and 31 percent shooting overall. It just didn’t have the personnel to execute its nearly flawless blueprint for beating the Cats.

Cincinnati’s chippy, physical style played into their early success, but was rendered useless as UK began to feed off of it.

“They’re just going to have to try something else,” Devin Booker said about the Bearcats’ bullying tactics.

Someone had better figure it out quickly, though, only four opportunities remain.