Though not a season of great success as in years prior, the University of Cincinnati women's basketball finished their 2020-21 regular season with a 65-57 victory over the University of Houston on Tuesday night.
The game opened with senior day celebrations for Houston and a ceremonial possession for Houston's Julia Blakeshell-Fair, the Cougars senior guard who tore her ACL in January against Temple University. She notably came back onto the sideline that game to watch her teammates secure the win.
Post tip-off, like many of the Bearcat's games this season, it became the Ilmar'I Thomas show. The senior put up 30 points on 10-18 shooting in her final regular-season appearance, making it Thomas' fifth outing of thirty or more points this year – only two games removed from her 51-point display against East Carolina University last week.
Thomas' efforts led the entirety of the game as the Bearcats only let up their lead one time early in the second half to get it back a couple of possessions later.
Her high-efficiency shooting encouraged the rest of the team to follow suit as Cincinnati put up their second-best total shooting percentage of the season (48%) and their highest three-point percentage (60%) – both well above the teams season averages (40% and 26%, respectively).
On Tuesday afternoon, Thomas was recognized by the United States Basketball Writers Association as the National Player of the Week. Thomas, who was already coming off her league-leading third American Athletic Conference Player of the Week award, averaged 39.5 points shooting 68.5% from the field and 10.5 rebounds over that span.
Other contributors for the Bearcats included sophomore guard Caitlyn Wilson and freshman guard Jillian Hayes, who have been enjoying breakout seasons.
Wilson finished her night as the Bearcats leading shooter from long range, hitting four of her six three-point attempts to conclude with 12 points. It's Wilson's fourth game in a row putting up double-digits in the scoring column, a habit she's gotten rather used to in the second half of the season.
Over her first nine games of the year, Wilson averaged 3.1 points per game. However, with her performance against Houston on Tuesday, Wilson has averaged 15.5 points while hitting 40% of her shots from beyond the arc.
Hayes pitched in a more all-around performance for Cincinnati, banking six points tagged along with seven rebounds and another six assists. That gives the point guard final regular-season averages of 7.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and three assists.
Hayes' biggest concern heading into the conference tournament and her sophomore season down the line will be her shooting consistency. The point guard shot a lackluster 30% from the field and 60% from the free-throw line.
Cincinnati finishes their regular season with three wins in a row, improving their record to 7-15 (6-11 AAC), giving them momentum into the American Athletic Conference Tournament, which begins Mar. 8 in Fort Worth, Texas, with a tip-off time and opponent to be announced.