Caupain improving as his role expands for Bearcats

Cincinnati Bearcats guard Troy Caupain (10) drives against the Memphis Tigers at FedExForum.

Nelson Chenault/Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

CINCINNATI — Troy Caupain has yet to start a game this basketball season but his importance to the Cincinnati Bearcats grows each time they take the floor.

The 6-foot-3, 200-pound freshman guard isn’t yet two months past his 18th birthday but as the now-No. 19 Bearcats have moved through the season, winning eight straight since losing consecutive games against New Mexico and Xavier, Caupain continues to see more time in the most significant parts of games. UC hosts Temple Tuesday night seeking to improve on its 15-2 overall and 4-0 record in the American Athletic Conference.

Junior Ge’Lawn Guyn has started all 17 games for UC but Caupain came off the bench to score 14 points in last Saturday’s 71-51 win against Rutgers, making five of the six shots he took from the field. It wasn’t his highest total of the season but with UC in need of other people besides Sean Kilpatrick and Justin Jackson proving they can score consistently, it’s a good sign for the Bearcats.

"Making shots is one thing but I think what shows you a lot about a guy is when he makes his shot," said UC coach Mick Cronin after the Rutgers game. "He made a big three. We had missed, I don’t know, about 10 straight wide open ones. At that point a lot of people are looking to hide. They don’t want to be the next guy to shoot."

Cronin exaggerated a little — UC had made one of those 10 wide open looks before Caupain knocked down the first of his two 3-pointers against Rutgers. They were part of the eight points he scored in a 12-2 run UC had to break a 40-40 tie in the second half and take the lead for good. Caupain leads UC in 3-point shooting at 46.7 percent.

As with any freshman, there’s also the not-so-good. Caupain committed a season-high four turnovers against Rutgers, three of which came in the second half. Twice he followed up turnovers with fouls after losing the ball. That was out of the ordinary for Caupain, however. He’s taken care of the ball more often than not. He’s second on the team behind Kilpatrick with 37 assists.

His best all-around game was at Memphis when the Bearcats took a 69-53 win over the then-No. 18 Tigers. Caupain scored seven points, had five assists and three steals.

"His length and his heart, that especially goes a long way for him," said Kilpatrick after the Rutgers win. "We need him. Him playing with confidence like that and being able to make the plays that he did, getting to the basket and at least trying to draw the fouls the way he did is something that will help us a lot down the stretch."

Caupain, guard Kevin Johnson and forward Jermaine Lawrence have grown into their roles off the bench as their freshmen seasons have progressed. Lawrence has missed the last two games with a turf toe injury and isn’t expected to play against Temple but he is still averaging more than 17 minutes a game on the floor. When he’s not in there a larger burden is placed starters Jackson, Titus Rubles and Shaquille Thomas to stay out of foul trouble.

Johnson is averaging 12.8 minutes per game as the primary relief for Kilpatrick at the two-guard spot.

Caupain came to UC from Crosby High School in Midlothian, Va., in the Richmond area. He finished his career there as the school’s all-time leader in rebounds and assists and second on its all-time scoring list.

"The biggest adjustment has been the speed of the game and how big and strong people are," said Caupain. "I can’t do what I did in high school here. Everything was getting blocked. They’re physical and much stronger. My biggest adjustment when I got here was to get in the weight room. I rarely lifted weights. I’ve learned body control, to slow it down and trust your teammates. If you give it up you’ll get it right back."