Before the ’21 Bearcats football season started I wrote about the Most Heartbreaking Football Losses since 2000 and people loved it. Reliving some of the most painful moments as football fans made something click in all of us. Anguish, disappointment, insufferable, and heartbreaking were all words used by people who commented on Twitter or Facebook. With such high expectations going into the football season the article served as a nice reminder of what the program had been through.
Now we sit just a couple of weeks away from the start of the Bearcats basketball season. Bearcats Basketball is sacred, there’s no other way to say it. The program looks to take in the breath of fresh air that is new head coach Wes Miller. Like most of you I’ve followed the basketball program since I was a kid and like you, it’s given me tremendous highs and harrowing lows. The list that follows attempts to revisit those lows in the wake of the program’s resurgence with a new coach, and new conference.
#10. 11/7/18 Cincinnati vs. Ohio State
The Buckeyes have ran things in the football department for quite a while (except this year!) basketball belongs to the Bearcats. There’s a lot of people in older generations who cheered for the football Buckeyes and the basketball Bearcats. It’s a weird dynamic so when UC announced that OSU would be the first game at newly renovated 5/3 Arena people had to draw a line in the sand, again. It had been 98 years since OSU played a basketball game in Cincinnati and all of us excepted the Buckeyes to shut up, even if it was just for one night. To open the arena a pregame celebration was capped off with Kenyon Martin waving to the crowd of 12,012 and then a dunk. By halftime, with the Buckeyes leading 27-18, the red flags were up. Jarron Cumberland’s 22 points wasn’t enough to power the Bearcats back in front in the second half and the Bearcats dropped their first game in the new arena 64-56… to Ohio State.
#9. 1/17/07 Cincinnati at Syracuse
The early Cronin years were rough and fans needed any excuse they could to get excited for Bearcats basketball again. The Bearcats came into this game 9-7 (0-2), the Orange were flying high at 14-4 (3-1). Deonta Vaughn was just a freshmen bet led the way in this one with 13 points with Marvin Gentry and John Williamson each scoring 11. The Orange led 48-34 at halftime and held a double-digit lead for most of the game until the Bearcats went on a 10-0 run to make a game of it. Vaughn hit a 3-pointer at 7:07 to begin the spurt and Jamual Warren ended it with a 3 from the top of the key to move Cincinnati within 68-67 with 4:43 left. The Orange hit two free throws with 34.2 seconds left to pull within a point. Seconds later Bearcat Jamual Warren would miss the front end of a 1 and 1, giving the Orange hope. Eric Devendorf hit two free throws for Syracuse with 12.6 seconds left, giving them a one point lead. The Bearcats would look to Vaughn to bail them out and pull off the upset but he came up short at the buzzer. It would be a long season.
#8. 2/18/18 #5 Cincinnati vs. #19 Wichita State
The Cincinnati Bearcats had a 39 home game winning streak going and were ranked #5 in the country when the Shockers came to town. The Shoe was being renovated so the basketball Bearcats took their talents to NKU, still the streak was alive and the longest in the nation. Landry Shamut and Co. didn’t care, they came to spoil the party. The entire game was back and forth with the Shockers holding a 42-40 lead at the half. Shamut would finish with 19, Jarron Cumberland with 18. But as Tre Tucker dunked it in off a pass from Jacob Evans after a steal with just 13 seconds in the game the Shockers would throw a 3/4 court pass on an out of bounds play to put them up for good 76-72. Streak snapped.
#7. 2/22/14 #7 Cincinnati vs. #11 Louisville
#6. 3/11/16 Cincinnati vs. UConn – AAC Quarter Final 4OT
In all of the battles that UC and UConn had over the years this game might take the cake. In a game that both teams refused to lose it took 4OTs in the AAC Tournament to settle this dog fight. I get exhausted just watching the highlights. It seemed like Troy Caupain refused to lose this game. He put up 37 points to lead all scorers and had the ball when it counted most. In the end the Huskies shot 22-24 from the foul line compared to just 25-34 for the Bearcats. Still, the 0.8 seconds that remained at the end of the third OT was highly questionable and instantly debated throughout the fan bases but it’s called March Madness for a reason.
#5. 3/22/12 Cincinnati vs. Ohio State – Sweet 16
This one hurt. You’ll remember this season as being “the one with the brawl in Norwood.” The Bearcats had made it to the Sweet 16 for the first time under Cronin, and it turns out the only time. The first half was rough as the Buckeyes had a 37-25 lead at the mid-point. Justin “Mean Face” Jackson was a lot of things during his time as a Bearcat but an offensive juggernaut was not one of them so when he led the Bearcats in scoring at the half, with 8 points, you knew something had went wrong. However, in the second half the Bearcats came out with a fire. They erased a 12 point lead led by Cashmere Wright who finished with 18 and Sean Kilpatrick who finished with 15. Jared Sullinger and the Buckeyes proved to be too much late and the Buckeyes beat the Bearcats 81-66 and the run was over.
#4. 3/17/02 Round of 32 Cincinnati vs. UCLA 2OT
This team was one of my favorites of all time. Steve Logan, Lenny Stokes, Jason Maxiell, Donald Little, Field Williams and the rest were fun to watch. They are what I picture in my mind as “the Bearcats brand of basketball.” The team started off the season with a loss to Oklahoma State and then rattled off 19 straight victories. Heading into the NCAA Tournament they were 29-3. First up for the 1-seeded Bearcats was Boston U, the Bearcats slaughtered them 90-52. Next was the 8-seed, UCLA in the round of 32. Regulation wasn’t enough for this one. After being knotted up at 80 apiece the two teams slugged it out for another 5 minutes that ended 90-90 with the Bearcats missing a few close shots at the end to send it to double overtime. In the final seconds Field Williams hit a three followed by Steve Logan knocking down another one, pulling the score to 103-101 with 1.6 seconds left but UCLA freshman Ryan Walcott wrapped it up with a pair of free throws sending the Bearcats home with broken dreams yet again after a stellar year.
#3. 3/19/05 Cincinnati vs. Kentucky – Round of 32
I didn’t know it then, you probably didn’t either but it was the last game Bob Huggins would coach for the Bearcats. It had been 14 years since the Wildcats and Bearcats met on the hardwood and it took a Tournament matchup to get this one. The Bearcats D was tenacious and flexed its muscle in the first half, taking a 35-33 lead into the half. Rajon Rondo, Kelenna Azubike, and the Wildcats got it going in the second half despite Maxiell, Hicks, and Williams holding their own. As time ticked away the Bearcats would fall to Kentucky 69-60 allowing for all of the Wildcats fans to come out of the woodwork.
#2. 3/9/00 Cincinnati vs. St. Louis
Friends and I debated about this game. Several thought it should be number one. Obviously, I disagreed, here’s why. This game will forever live in the minds of Bearcats fans as the game Kenyon broke his leg. The Bearcats were dominate all season and looked to be the best team in the country. What makes this game memorable, isn’t that the Bearcats lost, 68-58, it’s that the Bearcats lost Kenyon. Had the Bearcats lost this game and Kenyon wouldn’t have gotten hurt, they’re National Champions and a loss to St. Louis in the conference tournament is forgotten. Maybe my reasoning is flawed on all accounts, but that’s what I believe. Nevertheless, it sucks and will forever live in the minds of Bearcats fans.
#1. 3/18/18 Round of 32 #8 Cincinnati vs. #24 Nevada
After outlasting Houston in the AAC Championship and going 31-4 Bearcats Nation was ecstatic over a 2-seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Madness had already started with Virginia, the 1-seed in the Bearcat’s region being the first ever 1-seed to have lost to a 16-seed. Add in 13-seed Buffalo beating 4-seed Arizona, and 11-seed Loyola Chicago beating 6-seed Miami (FL) all in round of 64. The region was wide open for the Bearcats. Gary Clark and company could waltz their way into the Sweet 16 and beyond. All that stood in their way was 7-seed Nevada in the round of 32. The Bearcats battled to a 22 point lead in the second half. Then, ever so slowly, the Wolfpack chipped away at the lead until they took it with just seconds remaining. The game ended with Gary Clark on the floor trying desperately to scoop up a pass from Cane Broome. The near mention of this game still upsets me.