What happened in Hawaii, will stay in Hawaii.
At least that's the hope for University of Cincinnati men's basketball coach Wes Miller.
Heading into last week's Maui Invitational, Miller didn't want his team to allow how it faired in the three-day tournament to "define" who the Bearcats are or will be this season.
"I think what I was trying to say was going into the event, you're talking about the best event in college basketball in the preseason," he said. "And then the field this year seemed to be as good as you've ever seen there in terms of what each program was currently. I think there were five teams in the Top 25 going into it. Now, shoot, (there are) two in the top 10 with Arizona (No. 4 in both Associated Press and coaches polls) and Creighton (No. 7 in both polls).
"So what I talked about going into it to our team was if we go and have great success, that doesn't mean we've arrived. It's November. And if we go and there's some failure, it doesn't mean that the season's over. We're not going to allow those three days to define whether we're going to be good or not going to be good. We're going to go out, play our tails off, and try to learn from whatever happens and try to grow from whatever happens, good or bad."
Miller's Bearcats went 1-2 in Maui, including a 28-point loss to in-state foe Ohio State, and finished seventh out of the eight-team field. How the rest of the season goes and how this Cincinnati team will be defined is completely up to the Bearcats (4-3), who will be back in action Wednesday night against the New Jersey Institute of Technology (1-5).
It will be the first of back-to-back games for Cincinnati against American East Conference opponents. The Bearcats will host Bryant on Sunday.
Tipoff: 7 p.m. on Wednesday at Fifth Third Arena
TV/Radio: ESPN+/WLW-AM (700)
Series info: Cincinnati and NJIT are set to meet for the first time.
Coach: Brian Kennedy, seventh season (75-105)
Offense: 60.2 ppg
Defense: 66.8 ppg
Player (Position, Height, Key Stat)
Raheim Sullivan (G, 6'1", 6.5 ppg)
Mekhi Gray (G, 6'4", 5.5 ppg)
Miles Coleman (F, 6'5", 17.8 ppg)
Kevin Osawe (F, 6'7", 7.8 rpg)
Souleymane Diakite (F, 6'9", 9.8 ppg)
Coach: Wes Miller, second season (22-18)
Offense: 76 ppg
Defense: 70 ppg
Player (Position, Height, Key Stat)
Mika Adams-Woods (G, 6’3”, 8.7 ppg)
David DeJulius (G, 6’0", 15.6 ppg)
Landers Nolley II (G, 6’7”, 16 ppg)
Jeremiah Davenport (G, 6'7", 9.9 ppg)
Viktor Lakhin (F, 6’11”, 11 ppg)
Players to watch
The 6-foot-7, 210-pound Arkansas-Little Rock graduate transfer is coming off a 12-point, 13-rebound performance against Wagner. Osawe's first double-double of the season wasn't enough to lead NJIT to victory (the HIghlanders lost 62-57 at home), but he led the way, collecting three offensive rebounds and a steal. The Toronto native is a well-traveled veteran, starting his career at Vincennes University and transferring to Western Kentucky. He leads the team in rebounding, averaging nearly eight boards per game.
The preseason second-team All-American Athletic Conference selection seemed to have climbed out of an offensive slump in the Bearcats' 81-62 win over Louisville on the final day of the Maui Invitational. DeJulius led all scorers with 26 points, including making a career-high six 3-pointers, to snap Cincinnati out of its three-game losing streak. DeJulius averaged just 6.3 points over the previous three-game skid.
Key to the game
It sounds simple and obvious, but the Bearcats are a completely different team on both ends of the floor when they're creating good shots and knocking them down. Cincinnati had putrid offensive outings in two of their three losses this season. The Bearcats shot just 14% (4-for-29) from the field in an 11-point second half at Northern Kentucky, and shot just 39% (20-for-52), including 22% (4-for-18) from 3-point range, against the Buckeyes in Maui. Cincinnati needs to play sound and in rhythm offensively and knock down open shots.
KenPom.com: NJIT (334); Cincinnati (74)
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Cincinnati basketball: Bearcats to host NJIT