February 26, 2021
IImar’I Thomas sets records with a 51-point game: A win in the books and a jersey in the rafters
Thomas is the second player in University of Cincinnati basketball history to score 50 or more in a game
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IImar’I Thomas may have done more than lead the Bearcats to a 76-61 victory against East Carolina Wednesday night – she may have earned a spot for her jersey in the rafters of Fifth Third Arena.
Thomas dropped 51 points against the Pirates, joining Oscar Robertson as the only UC player to cross the 50-point threshold in a single game. She now has 1,824 points and 846 rebounds as a Bearcat, the first player in school history to boast 1,800+ career points and 800+ career rebounds.
Her feat also marks the first 50-plus point game in American Athletic Conference women’s basketball history while setting school and league records for points in a game (51) and field-goals made (20).
So those are the big numbers, but let’s break down how she got there.
UC came into this game off a three-game losing streak, seeking only to get another notch in the W column. The Bearcats squeaked by with a one-point lead out of the first quarter, led by eight at the break, and then really started to pull away in the last half, leading by as many as 18 in the fourth quarter.
Thomas went 20-of-27 from the floor and 11-of-13 from the free-throw line while grabbing 12 rebounds, just for good measure. Oh, and she tacked on four assists and a steal, too.
For UC head coach Michelle Clark-Heard, getting a win ended up taking a back seat when she realized Thomas could break the record Wednesday night.
“At halftime, we talked about how she had 20-something at halftime and I said ‘You gotta go for 50,’” Clark-Heard post-game. “And her teammates did a phenomenal job of giving her the basketball… We were going through all about the win, trying to get in the win column, but I’m just so proud of her and her effort and everything that she put in to be able to beat this record.”
But of course, ever the team player, Thomas points out she couldn’t have had her historic night without the help of her squad.
“It was extremely fun,” Thomas said after the game. “We knew that we needed this win, so to really just come out from the gate and jump on them – it felt really good. I was so proud of my team. We were playing our best basketball tonight.”
Caitlyn Wilson put up 10 points for the Bearcats, knocking down three triples to give her 27 three-pointers made over the last seven games. Meanwhile, Jada Scott hauled in a career-best 11 rebounds to put UC at a 54-26 edge on the glass over the Pirates.
Thomas is also a finalist for the 2021 Senior CLASS Award, which recognizes the achievements of student-athletes not just on the court, but in their communities and the classroom as well.
Thomas will earn a sports administration degree this year. She’s an American Athletic Conference All-Academic Team selection and is a three-time Bearcats Academic Honor Roll recipient.
Thomas has evolved throughout her time at UC and is now known as a vocal mentor to younger players. That especially has rung true in this unique season full of COVID-19 related limitations. It was Thomas who led efforts to organize Zoom calls to build team unity and communicate team goals and mentality for the season.
She also led discussions on how the team would address social injustice.
Thomas has put in numerous hours, on top of her regular student-athlete commitments, spending time with Cincinnati youth during visits to Boys and Girls Clubs, a nearby Ronald McDonald House, and local YMCA youth clinics.
She’s also a favorite at the annual UC women’s basketball summer camps.
You can vote for the Senior CLASS Award finalists here.