BY MIKE DeCOURCY
The Cincinnati Enquirer
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - The Cincinnati Bearcats have a returning starter at point guard, but that does not mean he'll start at point guard as they open their season.
Senior Michael Horton has been bothered by injury and illness in the past couple weeks, and coach Bob Huggins said he is likely to replace him in the lineup with junior Alvin Mitchell as No. 17 UC opens it season with a 7:30 game tonight against No. 25 Rhode Island (2-1) at the Providence Civic Center.
Mitchell, a junior college transfer, started the final exhibition game Saturday but aggravated a toe injury in the first minute and was replaced by Horton.
UC at RHODE ISLAND
When: 7:30 p.m. today|
Where: Providence Civic Center
Records: UC 0-0, URI 2-1
TV: Ch. 19
Radio: WLW-AM (700)
BY THE NUMBERS
16: Number of minutes played by point guard Preston Murphy in URI's opener before injuring his ankle. He is considered probable.
2: Number of blocks for UC center Kenyon Martin in two exhibitions, when opponents concentrated on perimeter offense.
+1: UC's rebounding margin in each of the exhibitions. The Bearcats outrebounded opponents by an average eight a game last year.
"I think Alvin's getting better," Huggins said. "His understanding of what's happening out there is better."
Most of the time Horton has spent on the practice court in the past several days has been with the second unit. He practiced more Wednesday and got a bit of work with the starters.
Huggins said starting Mitchell in the exhibition was done because he knew what to expect from Horton and wanted to see what Mitchell and freshman Steve Logan could accomplish. He explained Horton's presence on the second unit in practice by saying Horton's strong defense can give both players a good idea of what to expect in a regular game.
Horton sat out most of Tuesday's practice with the flu and was limited at other times by a nagging foot injury. Huggins said Horton's health will dictate how much he plays.
Horton has shot better in the preseason wokrouts than he did in his first year as a Bearcat, when he hit .457 from the floor but .461 from the foul line and .000 from three-point range. However, he was not nearly as accurate as Mitchell (.625 field goal percentage, .833 three-point) and Logan (.500 FG, .556 three-point) in the two preseason games.
Having a stronger shooter at the point gives opponents less opportunity to drop defenders in the lane to double-team center Kenyon Martin and forward Pete Mickeal.
Odom lives up to billing
Basketball story list