Sunday, February 8, 1998
UC timid in big loss at UNCC

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Charlotte's Kelvin Price steals the ball from Bobby Brannen.
(AP photo)
| ZOOM |
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The crowd overwhelmed the Cincinnati Bearcats at the end, racing to the center of the court at Dale F. Halton Arena for one of those beehive scenes ESPN loves for the close of its highlight packages. Things were pretty much the same at the start, except the fans were at their seats.

The No. 20 Bearcats warmed up for Saturday afternoon's game against UNC Charlotte with one eye on the audience and one on the goal. The fans who last year showered them with ice, coins and saliva mostly kept their projectiles to themselves, but the vocal cords of the 9,105 in attendance were among the 49ers' most potent weapons in a 69-62 Conference USA victory.

''We let them get us out of our rhythm a little bit,'' said UC point guard Michael Horton, ''and it was kind of hard to get back together.''

As the game was being decided, though, with 3:25 on the clock and UC looking at a 63-60 deficit, the 49ers didn't need the crowd's help. They controlled the ball, got the shots they wanted and rebounded when they missed.

Guard Sean Colson tried a jumper. Center Kelvin Price rebounded and tried to follow but missed. UC's Ruben Patterson got his hands on it for a second but had it torn away by the 49ers' DeMarco Johnson. He shot and failed to connect, but was bailed out by teammate Dalonte Hill. His three-pointer was short but picked up by Johnson.

Then Price scored. There was 1:31 left. The UNCC possession consumed almost a minute.

Charlotte's DeMarco Johnson dunks over Bobby Brannen.
(AP photo)
| ZOOM |
''It was huge,'' UC coach Bob Huggins said. ''We had a breakdown defensively. Guys didn't do what they were supposed to do. I told them afterward, 'We're not good enough to have all the mental breakdowns we do.' ''

When Melvin Levett missed a three-point attempt with 1:03 to play, UC was done. It was Levett's fifth miss from long range and seventh overall. The loss was the Bearcats' second in three games this week, all on the road.

For UC (17-5, 8-2), the loss was the third in six games since a 14-2 start. UNCC is 12-8 and 8-2.

Huggins was upset UNCC got a combined 33 points from its two leading scorers, 18 by Johnson and 15 by Colson, even though both were a shade below their per-game averages.

''When you gear the defense to prevent that,'' Huggins said, ''that's not supposed to happen.''

UC got an impressive 16-point, 11-rebound performance from center Kenyon Martin and a game-high 18 points from Patterson, but Patterson turned the ball over five times and made defensive errors that puzzled his coaches.

The Bearcats faced a press through the early part of the game, which did not do a lot to disrupt them but did establish their mentality. Instead of looking to punish the press, they merely sought to escape it. This approach pervaded their entire 40-minute effort, including a decisive stretch after they erased a 10-point halftime deficit and tied the game with 10:53 to play.

With the UNCC defense sitting back in the lane and leaving Horton unguarded - the 49ers' Colson double-teamed the UC player with the ball - the Bearcats didn't try to get the ball inside.

The 49ers have no intimidating shot-blockers, but Bobby Brannen got only one shot in the second half. The Bearcats took 18 of their 54 shots - exactly a third - from three-point range.

''Everytime I got the ball, I was getting double-teamed,'' Patterson said. ''Everytime I turned around, I saw somebody running at me.''

Patterson scored five points at the close of a 9-4 run to make it 47-all, the first even score since it was 13-13 at the 12:13 mark of the first half. But the Bearcats missed three jumpers in a row and let the game slip back to a seven-point deficit when reserve Hill nailed a three-pointer against their zone.

''We had it tied because we played as a basketball team,'' Huggins said. ''Our mental approach to the game in the past couple weeks has gone south. When things don't go the way they want, they try to make plays. The teams that do well are the teams that get that out of them.''

''Cincinnati did a good job, went into the zone and threw us off, but when it came down to it, we were not going to have any quit in us today,'' UNCC coach Melvin Watkins said.

Notebook: No Brannen, no blockouts 

CINCINNATI (62) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Levett 29 2-9 0-0 1-2 1 1 6 Brannen 35 4-9 2-2 3-9 0 5 10 Martin 34 7-10 2-2 5-11 3 4 16 Baker 25 1-4 0-0 0-1 1 0 2 Horton 21 1-4 3-4 0-2 1 2 5 Myrick 11 1-3 0-0 0-0 1 1 3 Patterson 34 5-13 7-11 2-6 2 4 18 Fletcher 11 1-2 0-0 0-0 1 1 2 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 22-54 14-19 11-31 10 18 62 _______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.407, FT-.737. 3-Point Goals: 4-18, .222 (Levett 2-7, Baker 0-3, Horton 0-2, Myrick 1-2, Patterson 1-4). Team rebounds: 6. Blocked shots: 4 (Martin 3, Patterson). Turnovers: 17 (Horton 6, Patterson 5, Martin 3, Myrick 2, Levett). Steals: 1 (Martin).

NC CHARLOTTE (69) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Johnson 39 8-15 2-3 5-11 4 2 18 Shaw 27 5-9 0-0 0-2 1 3 10 Price 34 5-9 2-3 3-9 2 4 12 Colson 38 4-13 3-4 0-5 7 3 15 Young 23 1-7 3-4 4-7 1 4 6 Hill 20 2-5 1-2 3-4 0 0 6 Thomas 6 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Guevara 13 0-2 2-2 0-0 1 0 2 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 25-61 13-18 15-38 16 16 69 _______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.410, FT-.722. 3-Point Goals: 6-17, .353 (Johnson 0-1, Colson 4-8, Young 1-3, Hill 1-3, Thomas 0-1, Guevara 0-1). Team rebounds: 1. Blocked shots: 2 (Johnson, Shaw). Turnovers: 15 (Colson 4, Johnson 4, Guevara 2, Price 2, Young 2, Hill). Steals: 8 (Colson 3, Johnson 2, Guevara, Shaw, Young). __________________________________ Cincinnati 28 34 - 62 Nc Charlotte 38 31 - 69 __________________________________ Technical fouls: None. A: 9,105. Officials: Don Rutledge, David Dodge, Mike Thibodeaux.