Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin questions team’s toughness after loss to Temple

Coming into its American Athletic Conference opener against Temple on Tuesday afternoon, No. 22 Cincinnati had gone 96 games without giving up at least one point-per-possession defensively in three straight contests.

That streak is over, and Bearcats’ coach Mick Cronin has had enough of his team’s defensive effort.

Temple defeated host Cincinnati 77-70 behind terrific shooting from behind the 3-point line and 50 percent shooting from the field. The Owls scored over 1.26 points-per-possession as a team, with Quenton DeCosey leading the way 19 points.

While Temple (6-5, 1-0) will likely look at this performance as a regression back to the middle of the road after poor shooting to start the season, Cronin didn’t exactly see it that way, according to Fox 19 in Cincinnati.

In the early portion of the season, there was a lot of rightful excitement about Cincinnati’s offense being stronger than it’s been in years’ past. The Bearcats are currently ranked 34th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency, and if that holds it would be their highest mark under Cronin.

However, it does seem pretty fair at the moment for Cronin to question the defense, especially given that it’s been the program’s identity over the course of his tenure.

Not only is this the first time three straight opponents scored over one point-per-possession against Cincinnati (10-4, 0-1) since Jan. 15, 2013, but it’s also the sixth time in 14 games a team has cracked that barrier this season against the Bearcats. Through the entire 31-game regular season last year with basically the same roster, Cincinnati only allowed eight such games. Interior defense isn’t a problem for the Bearcats, who came into the game first nationally in percentage allowed at the rim. However, teams are really getting them at the 3-point line. Their last four opponents have combined to make 34 3s, and overall the rotations and closeouts to the 3-point line haven’t been up to par for what Cronin likely wants to see from his group.

The offensive talent is undeniably better in Cincinnati than it’s been in a while. That gives the Bearcats a much higher margin for error than they’ve had in the past.

But if they want to catch the teams at the top of the AAC later this year, the defense will need to get back to its typically stingy self.

Mick Cronin needs to get his team playing a bit better defensively. (USATSI)
Mick Cronin needs to get his team playing a bit better defensively. (USATSI)

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