BY MIKE DeCOURCY
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The rest of the Cincinnati Bearcats celebrated their win over Duke as though they defeated college basketball's No. 1 team. Which they did. Aaron McGhee chose not to join the party. He did not feel he belonged.
"Of course not, because I didn't play as much as everybody else and I didn't feel like I contributed to the team," McGhee said. "I was real down after that game. But I learned."
McGhee, a 6-foot-7, 240-pound sophomore forward, played one minute in the Great Alaska Shootout title game. This did not seem to him to be an overly joyous occasion.
He sat in the airport awaiting the long flight home with a grim look on his face, but a week's worth of practice in preparation for today's 6 p.m. home opener against Oakland (2-4) at the Shoemaker Center returned McGhee to a more pleasant frame of mind.
OAKLAND at UC
When: 6 p.m. today |
Where: Shoemaker Center.
Records: UC 4-0; Oakland 2-4
TV: Ch. 19
Radio: WLW-AM (700)
BY THE NUMBERS
32: Consecutive home openers UC has won.
18: Consecutive games UC has won at the Shoe, the ninth-longest homecourt winning streak in Division I.
254-151: Career record of Oakland coach Greg Kampe.
1: Year Oakland has been a Division opponent for schools such as UC, Ohio State and Michigan State.
With the No. 6 Bearcats (4-0) heavily favored against this transitional Division I member, this would be an obvious opportunity for McGhee to regain the spot in the rotation that saw him average 16.5 minutes in the first two games, only to slip to a combined eight minutes in the next two.
"I've been working hard in practice," McGhee said. "I'm going to play well. Maybe I can't say that, but I'm definitely going to be much more focused."
When he opened with nine points in UC's victory at Rhode Island, McGhee demonstrated he can score against big-time competition. This is what the coaching staff expected after watching him in practice and two exhibition games.
The problem to this point is he's done nothing more. McGhee tends to ignore all else -- most notably, his teammates -- when his hands are on the basketball.
Counting the exhibitions, McGhee played 70 minutes and had one assist. Of the other Bearcats who played at least that much, no one has fewer than three.
Huggins lost patience with this aspect of McGhee's game when he was triple-teamed on the left side of the lane against Iowa State and chose to force a shot through the traffic, ignoring teammate Steve Logan, who was open behind the three-point line and calling for the ball. McGhee missed. He was removed immediately.
"He's been talking to me about that," McGhee said. "I tried to put the ball down every time I got it. He tells me to move the ball. I'm used to coming in, getting it and taking it to the rack. I need patience, to let the game come to me, to try not to force it."
Even more pressing than concern about his offense is McGhee's attention to defense. Like most players new to college basketball, he is having to adjust to the technical demands of defending Division I talent. He also must grasp the differences between playing in the lane, as he mostly did in high school, and guarding on the perimeter. McGhee would like for himself to be considered a small forward, for a couple of reasons. He feels his perimeter shooting can be better used there, and also because UC has more depth inside. Ryan Fletcher and freshman Eugene Land are at
power forward, and Land has adapted more quickly to the Bearcats system. With Jermaine Tate just two games from making his debut, the position will be more crowded.
If McGhee can make the defensive adjustment, he could get some big-man minutes and pick up at small forward when Pete Mickeal needs a break.
UC has tickets available for the Oakland game, including some in the lower-level end zone customarily reserved for students. They go on sale today between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the Shoemaker Center.
Season in stories