TAMPA – Cincinnati basketball coach John Brannen called a meeting with Trevon Scott and Keith Williams.
At the hotel on Tuesday afternoon, hours before the start at USF, Brannen delivered messages and gave a simple message.
Star Jarron Cumberland couldn’t play. Losing the Bulls would likely bring an NCAA tournament to a standstill altogether, but Brannen didn’t need Scott and Williams to play like superheroes.
“We need Keith as Keith and Tre as Tre,” said Brannen.
“They said, ‘Coach, we have you.'”
Indeed they did.
Williams, the junior guard from Brooklyn, hit a career high of 30 points, and Scott, the senior Coastal Georgia striker, scored another double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds in the Bearcats 79-67 win.
They starred that night when the Bearcats saved their season.
“I don’t want it to fall apart,” said Scott. “Me and my boys, we only have (so many) promised games together.
“I don’t want this season to end anytime soon for us.”
Shortly after Brannen lost his father to ALS and dementia without their star in Cumberland, new rookie Jeremiah Davenport was lost for the season, losing 13 points 13 minutes before the end of the game. Williams and Scott were outstanding in their roles.
They failed to cover Cumberland on another double-digit rally. They maximized in their own way, spurred on by Williams, who tried his most shots of the season (18) and made 9 of 12 out of the field, scoring 21 in the second half.
“The Brooklyn came out today,” said Scott of Williams. “He did what he should. I said to him on the square: ‘Like brother, you are hot. I will go on to you. You are hot.’
“Keith was aggressive and took every opportunity he got. He made big numbers.”
After 56:43 minutes behind in the second half, Williams was instrumental in starting a 17-2 run to take the lead with a steal and dunk and a 3-pointer in a duel. Following his long-distance mark, he said he could say the Bearcats were on their way to victory.
“These guys just stopped out there,” he said. “I could see it on their faces. I told my boys we can win. We just have to keep working it out.”
Scott recorded his 11th double-double in the AAC game and increased his season average to 11.6 points and 10.5 rebounds. This is the best UC player’s doubles-doubles average since Pat Cummings 1978-79, even more impressive when you consider Scott’s averaging nine points and nine rebounds per start of the conference season.
With UC in the bladder for months and possibly missing the big dance for the first time in a decade, Scott continues to step up his performance.
“He wants to extend his career,” said Brannen. “I think he’s one of the best players in the league.
“He does everything. He does absolutely everything. His energy goes through the roof. His sense of urgency goes through the roof. His buy-in; all the things you would expect from a senior at the end of the year.”
Scott and Williams had help, of course, especially from the Mamoudou Diarra and Chris McNeal reserves.
Brannen stayed with Diarra, the second year Redshirt who can play both 4 and 5 instead of starting Chris Vogt on the comeback. Diarra hit a season high of eight points and seven rebounds, making a positive change in the way the Bearcats defended the ball screens, according to Brannen.
“He won all our trust, he won the trust of the coaches,” said Scott. “In my opinion, he has the most important job on the team right now. I told him that (before the game) and he did it.
“Because he’s playing two positions right now. If I go out he has to come in for me and if Chris goes out he has to go in for Chris. He has to know the 4 point and 5 point games. I have to ricochet, defend myself, needs to know the coverage in both places and look at it. In my opinion he is excellent at that. ”
McNeal made two 3-point points for the first time this season. The Senior Guard’s 20 minutes on the pitch were more than the last four games combined, his six points more than the last 11 games combined.
His defense on the ball was consistently stubborn, including forcing a 10-second injury with a close-up man and a distraction during the run to take the lead.
“His character is high and he’s tough,” said Brannen. “I knew he would play well and I told him that before the game started.”
After the game, Scott patted his chest outside the locker room as he talked about his teammates. Diarra smiled big as a member of staff complimented his trip. Williams talked about how great a man Brannen’s father was.
When asked about the emotional toll of everything that happened, Brannen held back the tears.
“It was very emotional for me,” said Brannen, “and I have to go home.”