Exhibition against UC bewilders hoops fans

I’m trying to decide whether or not I should look very far into the near-upset of the University of Cincinnati by the men’s basketball team.

Granted, it’s an exhibition game. Basketball in October has about as much relevance as the Reds’ spring training in March.

Bottom line, it doesn’t count on the permanent record. We shouldn’t pay attention to the preseason.

Or should we?

I saw Northern play U.C. in 2005, my first semester here. I got what I expected: the Norse hung around for ten minutes, the U.C. pulled away by shooting nearly 70 percent and physically dominated the Norse 96-60. Last year, the Norse trailed 47-11 at halftime.

This year was a much different story.

At this year’s game, the Norse led by 15 at one point. It took the stronger and more athletic Bearcats about 39 minutes before they knew what they were up against.

Northern wasn’t coming to just collect a “thanks for coming to our place while getting trounced” check and leave with its tails between its legs; it almost shocked the tri-state area.

Had it not been for clutch free-throw shooting down the stretch by the Bearcats, who knows what could have happened?

If this exhibition game was indicative of anything, it’s that the Norse is going to have a chance against stronger, more physical teams in the GLVC. Nailing 16 3-pointers will help that cause, for one thing.

Mark Hawkins made 7-for-10 3-pointers, and senior Vincent Humphrey added 15 points while netting three 3-pointers of his own.

Freshman Dennis Gagai added 12 points. Things could have gone even better for the Norse, as the former Boone County High School standout, Travis Rasso, played only seven minutes and scored just two points.

I can’t help but reiterate that this is an exhibition game, and I could be reading too far into it. But it’s not every day a Division II team rolls into a Division I team’s house and almost gives them more than they can handle.

I’m sure Dave Bezold doesn’t believe in moral victories, but I can’t help but think that he didn’t peel the paint off the walls of the locker room after the game.

Who knows? This could be a special team in the making. We’ll find out over the next five months.