BY MIKE DeCOURCY
The Cincinnati Enquirer
One aspect of the Cincinnati offense that improved over the first three games was ballhandling.
Point guards Alvin Mitchell and Steve Logan had a combined five turnovers through the Iowa State win. Against Rhode Island and Iowa State, UC point guards did not commit a turnover in a combined 88 minutes. Each had one against Duke.
Last season, Michael Horton averaged 3.3 turnovers as UC's point guard and had five or more turnovers in eight games.
Home, sweet, home
Before UC shooting guard Melvin Levett made 2 of 2 from three-point range against Duke, he made just 3-of-16 three's in the first three games, leading the senior to question his technique.
At one point in the Shootout semifinal against Iowa State, he tried to get the attention of radio commentator Chuck Machock to ask if he was setting his feet properly as he prepared to shoot.
Afterward, Levett explained he thought the problem was not getting low enough in his stance as he prepared to launch his shots. In fact, the biggest problem is where Levett is shooting: away from the Shoemaker Center. He entered the Duke game 34-of-113 (.301) for his career in games away from the Shoe. At home, he is 63-of-164 (.384).
Playing No. 1
UC's game against Duke represented the second time in the past three seasons the Bearcats faced the nation's top-ranked team.
The last time UC played No. 1, it was against Kansas in the Great Eight near the start of the 1996-97 season. The Bearcats had held the top ranking before losing to Xavier.
UC lost 72-65, after holding a commanding lead in the first half but wilting after All-America forward Danny Fortson encountered foul trouble after the break.
Saturday's game against Duke was only the third in UC's history. Duke won both prior meetings in 1979-80 and 1989-90.
Punch the clock
The 45-second clock used for the Great Alaska Shootout as part of an experiment by the NCAA rules committee has had a definite effect on the type of games the Bearcats played.
In league games last season with a 35-second clock, the Bearcats and their opponents averaged 110.2 shots. In the opener against Rhode Island this season, UC and the Rams combined for 133 shots. In the first two games of the Shootout, the average was 98 shots. UC's coaches do not favor the move to the 45-second clock, in part because their defensive style is empowered by the quicker cycle. Teams such as UC, Marquette and Oklahoma State, which keep their defenses tight inside and force opponents to make shots over their defenders, have long been successful in suppressing shooting percentages.
Fletcher's time is now
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