Cincinnati Basketball: 5 Reasons for Bearcats' Recent Slide

Tyler Donohue@@TDsTakeNational Recruiting AnalystFebruary 22, 2013

Cincinnati Basketball: 5 Reasons for Bearcats' Recent Slide

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    Cincinnati began the February portion of its regular season schedule viewed as a team on the rise. The Bearcats had won four of five conference games, improving to 17-4 overall.

    The team's momentum is moving in a very different direction as we enter the final week of February.

    Cincinnati finds itself in a downward spiral, dropping four of five Big East matchups and falling to 10th place in conference standings. 

    The Bearcats (19-8, 7-7 Big East) weren't able to shake off recent struggles Thursday night. Cincinnati suffered a seven-point overtime loss at Connecticut.

    Coach Mick Cronin's squad led by six with about four minutes to play, but failed to seal the deal and stumbled down the stretch in another frustrating Big East battle.

    The Bearcats built a strong NCAA Tournament resume midway through the regular season, but this lull won't look good to bracketologists. 

    Let's take a look at some particular issues that have sent Cincinnati in the wrong direction.

Road Struggles

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    The Bearcats can't buy a win away from home lately. Cincinnati has lost two straight and three of four road games in the Big East. 

    This team has claimed just one win on the road since Jan. 15. That victory came at Seton Hall, a squad that is 2-12 in conference play.

    The journey doesn't get any easier for the Bearcats. Cincinnati must still visit Notre Dame and Louisville before the regular season wraps up.

Can't Beat the Elite

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    Cincinnati surged toward the top of Big East standings with a strong first half, but the Bearcats have been exposed a bit since that point. Mick Cronin's team has lost four of its last five clashes with nationally ranked opponents. 

    The Bearcats edged No. 25 Marquette in a Jan. 19 overtime thriller but hasn't sustained that success against other conference leaders. Cincinnati suffered a defeat in each of its last three games versus ranked squads (Georgetown, Pittsburgh and Syracuse).

    Those teams have shot up Big East standings, while Cincinnati continues to fade in the conference race. 

Free Throw Failures

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    Teams live and die at the free-throw line in tight late-season games. So far, Cincinnati hasn't passed the test in this department.

    The Bearcats rank 14th in the Big East with a 65 percent shooting mark from the charity stripe. Cincinnati connected on just 17-of-30 free throw attempts (57 percent) in a Feb. 15 loss to Georgetown. 

    Free throw inefficiency also cost Cincy at Providence. The Bearcats buried just 11-of-20 attempts in a four point loss to the Friars. 

Offensive Inefficiency

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    The Bearcats aren't exactly scoring in bunches. Cincinnati ranks 272nd in the nation with a .411 field goal shooting percentage.

    The team's offensive ineptitude has become more glaring during this late-season lull. Cincinnati has failed to score more than 55 points in four of its last five losses.

    The Bearcats shot 32 percent from the floor against Georgetown, highlighted by a 4-of-24 effort from three-point territory. Cincinnati hit just four of 25 three-point attempts in a Feb. 9 loss to Pittsburgh.

Sean Kipatrick's Struggles

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    Kilpatrick is currently the fourth-leading scorer among Big East players, averaging 18 points per night. The junior guard tallied 20 or more points in seven games before February, but he hasn't been able to expand on that success in the season's latter stages.

    Kilpatrick's cumulative shooting during the Bearcats last five contests leaves a lot to be desired. He has hit just 25 of his last 70 shot attempts, which works out to a dismal 36 percent shooting average.

    Cincinnati needs its top scorer to regain his composure and consistency for the final stretch.