Popo's Friday Morning Rush for January 31, 2014

UC withstands big second half rally to win again

CINCINNATI - It's Friday, January 31, 2014....TGIF!

UC  69  LOUISVILLE  66: The Bearcats win their 13th straight game of the season and their 20th game overall. They improved to 9-0 in the AAC. It's likely they'll be a top ten team next week.

ROLLERCOASTER:  UC could do no wrong in the first half.  They made all the shots and got all the calls. You knew Louisville would make a run, and they went ahead 64-61 with 5:01 to play.  But Louisville scored only two points in the final five minutes and Sean Kilpatrick hit six key free throws down the stretch.

SIGNIFICANCE: It happened in prime time.  It happened on ESPN. It happened in Louisville.  It happened against the defending national champions. It happened even though most basketball fans outside of Cincinnati couldn't identify a UC player beyond Sean Kilpatrick.

MY HOPE: Fans can't  treat this victory like some sort of novelty.  When UC comes home on Sunday, Fifth Third Arena should be jammed and jumping. The crowd should crush USF from the very start. Take a cue from Louisville where the atmosphere is electric. Give your team that same advantage.

FURTHERMORE: It's time UC fans ended their abandonment of the program. Bob Huggins isn't coming back.  Nancy Zimpher has taken her fishnets to New York.  Time to appreciate what Mick Cronin has done with this program. Even Rick Pitino talked this week about the athletes that Mick has accepted, developed and brought to a major college level. It's time for fans to quit their assertions that "Mick can't recruit" or "Mick can't coach" or "Mick's too short."  That's all baloney.  Okay..he is kind of short. But so am I.  There shouldn't be an empty seat in Fifth Third Arena the rest of the season. And don't cry about not being in the Big East any longer. Connecticut, Louisville and Memphis are still coming to town. That's as good as it gets year in and year out.

LASTLY: I thought the great part of Thursday's victory was the way UC players weathered the storm, and it really got stormy and nasty in that second half. Had UC blown that 17-point lead and lost the game, I would have heard how UC is a second -rate program with a lousy coach and players that choke. In the midst of that Louisville chaos, they managed to find their poise and their focus.. Imagine how difficult that had to be. This team is physically and mentally tough, and I hope Cincinnati was proud of what they did. I was and I'm not even a UC alum.

NOW: They just have to keep doing it.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: To my wonderful sister Margaret, one of the three best sisters in the world..

QUESTIONS/COMMENTS: jpopovich@wcpo.com, Twitter @ popo_wcposports.

Have a great Friday..



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