Cumberland’s game-winner breaks Shockers in second-consecutive game


Marshall Sunner

Cincinnati's Jarron Cumberland goes up for a layup with five seconds left in the game against Wichita State on Feb. 6 inside Charles Koch Arena. Cumberland made the shot and got fouled, setting up the game-winning free throw.

The game seemed to be sealed for the Shockers. Wichita State fought all the way back after being down six points with just over five minutes remaining. Down one with 16 seconds remaining, freshman point guard Grant Sherfield put the team on his back.

After Cincinnati decided to double-team senior center Jaime Echenique in the post, Sherfield was left wide open. Echenique kicked the ball back out to the freshman, who let it fly.

Bang, a Shocker lead. 79-77 with 16 seconds remaining. Charles Koch Arena was rocking. The Bearcats somewhat struggled to get the ball out of the backcourt on the ensuing possession, but succeeded and called a timeout with 12 second remaining. Everyone in the arena knew who was going to have the ball out of the timeout: reigning American Athletic Conference Player of the Year Jarron Cumberland.

The Bearcats in-bounded the ball near mid-court. Cumberland took a few seconds off of the clock and waited for the right moment. With six seconds remaining, and drifting towards the right side of the lane, the senior drove towards the basket. He beat sophomore Dexter Dennis off of the dribble and got the half step he needed to get a good look at the rim. Cumberland put the layup off of the glass and got it to fall. But a whistle was blown, he was fouled.

Marshall Sunner
Cincinnati’s bench reacts to Jarron Cumberland’s and-1 that set up the game winning free throw during the game against Wichita State on Feb. 6 inside Charles Koch Arena.

The air in the arena was immediately taken out from inside of the Shocker fans’ lungs. Gasps and groans echoed in the arena as Cumberland headed to the line to attempt what would end up being the game-winning free throw. He sank it, and the Bearcats led 80-79.

Not all hope was lost for the Shockers though. After advancing the ball near midcourt and taking a timeout with 2.5 seconds remaining, WSU was still able to get a decent look at a buzzer-beater. But Stevenon’s shot wouldn’t fall, and the Shockers lost their second-consecutive game in heartbreaking fashion.

“Losing two games in a row like that is really tough so I’ll have to do what I can to get the guys up for the next one because the season keeps coming at you, and it comes at you fast,” Head Coach Gregg Marshall said after the game. “Great play by them at the end to win the game, obviously we didn’t want to foul, we didn’t want them to come off the three-point shooters, we just had to try and contest and he (Cumberland) made a great play.

Dennis, who committed the foul on Cumberland, took the blame on that play, saying that he didn’t feel like himself all night on defense. Cumberland ended up finishing the contest with a game-high 24 points on a 52.9/12.5/83.3 split.

“He got the ball at the top of the key. I knew he was going to do something, and I did what I could and apparently it wasn’t enough,” Dennis said. “I think all night, defensively, I wasn’t in tune. I gave up too many baskets. Normally that doesn’t happen, but tonight it did.”

Selena Favela
Cincinnati’s Jarron Cumberland looks at the basket during the game against Wichita State at Charles Koch Arena on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020.

But at the end of the day, it wasn’t just Cumberland who helped sink the Shockers. Bearcat junior Kieth Williams had a heyday, getting multiple open looks throughout the night as well as getting buckets to fall through contact. He finished with 17 points on an efficient 7-11 shooting from the field – he knocked down all three of his free throws. Junior center Chris Vogt also finished with double-figures (12 points, five rebounds, three blocks, and three steals).

“That’s basketball man. It’s cruel sometimes,” Marshall said. “We won most the statistical categories other than (at) the free throw line and we didn’t play good enough defense. They are a heck of a team and did some great things.”

Down the stretch, Wichita State’s defense early on proved to be the key in the Bearcats’ victory. In the first half alone, Cincinnati shot a blistering 68.2% from the field and knocked down four of their eight threes. When the final buzzer sounded, their shooting percentage had fallen, but still finished above the 50% threshold (54.5%).

“Hats off to them. They’re a very good team. They just scored at a great percentage tonight. We couldn’t stop them tonight,” sophomore guard Jamarius Burton said. “They shot 55 percent. We were fighting trying to limit their scoring opportunities, but they took advantage of every situation they had. Down the stretch, they made big time plays at the end.”

Marshall Sunner
Cincinnati’s Keith Williams reacts after making a shot while getting fouled during the second half of the game against Wichita State on Feb. 6 inside Charles Koch Arena.

Even though the loss marked the team’s second in a row, Burton is optimistic. Over the previous five games prior to Cincinnati, the Shockers had scored over 60 points just once, and shot 40% or under in every game. On Thursday, WSU broke out of that offensive slump, shooting 48.5% from the floor.

“Hopefully we won’t make the same mistakes and improve to keep going and give it our all,” Burton said. “We can learn from games like the past two. We were a few possessions behind and could have made another basket or gotten another stop. We can take this opportunity to learn.”

Wichita State will look to break their losing streak on Sunday at Houston at 2 p.m. With the loss Thursday, the Shockers fall to sixth place in the AAC. Cincinnati picked up another NCAA Tournament resume building win and moved up to be tied for first (Houston) in the conference standings.

“We’ve got to get back to our calling card, which is defense and that has kept us in games,” Burton said. “Hopefully, we can pair the offense and defense next game.”