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Big 12 tournament: What we learned in Cincinnati Bearcats basketball win vs. Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Surrounded by a pro-Kansas crowd of 18,261, the University of Cincinnati Bearcats played like a favorite taking down the Kansas Jayhawks, 72-52.

UC had a 14-3 run over the final four-plus minutes to turn the game into a 20-point convincing win. Kansas was without its two best players in John Wooden candidates Hunter Dickinson and Kevin McCullar Jr. Both are Big 12 First Team selections.

The win gives UC a 5-4 lead in the all-time series and puts them in the Big 12 quarterfinal game with No. 3 seed Baylor Thursday night at 8:30 p.m. Central/9:30 Eastern.

Dan Skillings Jr. was aggressive offensively Wednesday night and led the Bearcats with 25 points. He also had seven rebounds, two assists with one steal and one block.
Dan Skillings Jr. was aggressive offensively Wednesday night and led the Bearcats with 25 points. He also had seven rebounds, two assists with one steal and one block.

Dan Skillings Jr. led four Bearcats in double figures with 25 points. John Newman III had 12, Jizzle James 11 and Simas Lukošius 10. The Bearcats improve to 20-13, the second straight 20-win season under Wes Miller.

"I don't think we're popping champagne or anything tonight," Miller said. "I do think you recognize things that have value and getting 20 wins is something. First year in the Big 12 and there's been some tough days? It's nice to look down and see 20 on the stat sheet."

Kansas fell to 22-10 and was led by K.J. Adams with 22 points.

5 takeaways from UC's Big 12 win over Kansas

1. The Self-review: Not good

"We came over here on a Wednesday and the quarterfinals is tomorrow," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "Sucks! That's what we're going to take away from this."

Kansas will watch the Big 12 quarterfinals from afar for the first time.

UC was favored by 2.5 points and won by 20. They led for 38:11 of the 40 minutes. Because of the loss Kansas will enter the NCAA tournament for the first time under Self with 10 losses. They are now 36-10 under Self in Big 12 tournament games and 25-8 in games at T-Mobile Center.

While the Bearcats didn't make 16 3-pointers as they did against West Virginia, they were 9-for-26, while Kansas shot just 3-of-20 from behind the arc. Neither Day Day Thomas nor Lukošius drained seven on this night, as they did on Tuesday, but they had two each as did Skillings and Newman.

"My teammates and coaches believe in me," Thomas said. "As long as I've got confidence in myself and my teammates telling me to keep shooting, I'm going to keep shooting."

"I think their size and athleticism bothered us," Self said. "And they're good. Statistically, they're one of the better teams in America in defensive efficiency. We didn't have enough weapons to score the ball."

2. UC shows the extra gear again

UC's 13-point halftime lead was their biggest since the Florida Gulf Coast game Dec. 3 when they led by 14. However, Kansas had a 7-0 run to start the second half and with 13:29 left, the Jayhawks had crept within two. UC began the half shooting just 2-of-16.

"We got back to playing harder (after that) and when the ball goes in that helps a lot too," Miller said.

At 5:48 a lob from Newman to Skillings had UC up 14, 58-44. Kansas got within nine with 4:35 remaining, but from there UC's closing run was 14-3 to hand Kansas its worst-ever Big 12 tournament defeat.

Cincinnati Bearcats forward Jamille Reynolds (13) shoots over Kansas Jayhawks forward K.J. Adams Jr. (24). Adams led Kansas with 22, but UC prevailed 72-52 in the Big 12 tournament.
Cincinnati Bearcats forward Jamille Reynolds (13) shoots over Kansas Jayhawks forward K.J. Adams Jr. (24). Adams led Kansas with 22, but UC prevailed 72-52 in the Big 12 tournament.

3. Banging those boards

In their 74-69 defeat at Kansas, UC outrebounded the Jayhawks 40-29. They did it again Wednesday 49-38. Leading the way was Newman III with 10 which coupled with his 12 points gave him a double-double. It was his first of the season.

"I thought we did a really good job at crashing the boards and taking advantage of the disadvantages that we saw," Newman said. "We made an emphasis to guard your man and it paid off for us tonight."

Aziz Bandaogo only had one shot ( a dunk) but had nine rebounds and Skillings Jr. added seven. UC blocked six shots with Jamille Reynolds swatting a pair.

4. Crowd was loud

Lawrence, Kansas is roughly 47 minutes away from the T-Mobile Center so the majority of the crowd was in blue.

The previous game featured a Kansas State win over Texas, so not many people in the T-Mobile Center were from Ohio. After a late Skillings Jr. 3-pointer, he gave the attendees a "shoosh" as the lead increased.

"We all had it going and everyone was finding each other," Skillings said. "It was super loud. It was a Kansas home game. That's how it sounded. It sounded like their place."

Said Lukošius, "It's fun when you get to quiet them down and you see the whole bench jumping up and down and celebrating. That's really what this team has been about. We've been pretty good in road games."

5. Mr. Bubble?

Heading into the Kansas game, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi again listed Cincinnati in the conversation. After reaching 20 wins and the Big 12 quarterfinals, KenPom.com gave them a quick boost to No. 33, a 10-spot rise in a day's time.

Guard Jizzle James and the Bearcats padded their tournament resume with the victory over Kansas Wednesday night and could further enhance any NCAA hopes with a victory over No. 3 seed Baylor Thursday night.
Guard Jizzle James and the Bearcats padded their tournament resume with the victory over Kansas Wednesday night and could further enhance any NCAA hopes with a victory over No. 3 seed Baylor Thursday night.

Next game

With the win the Bearcats move to the quarterfinals to face No. 3 seed Baylor. The two met Jan. 13 in Waco with the Bears (22-9, 11-7 Big 12) prevailing 62-59. The game will be on ESPN2, while Dan Hoard and Terry Nelson have the radio call on 700WLW.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Big 12 tourney observations from UC Bearcats tourney win over Kansas