BY MIKE DeCOURCY
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The words of Bearcats coach Bob Huggins had little effect on the officiating for Saturday night's game against Southwestern Louisiana, but they worked a near-miracle with freshman center Donald Little.
The two met for two hours earlier this week, at Little's request. He appeared restless and unsure in his three regular-season and two exhibition appearances and told Huggins he had lost confidence in himself.
"He told me to just play," Little said. "No matter how many shots I missed or whatever, just play. It gave me my confidence back."
Little responded with his first double-figure game, scoring 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting and having two blocks. His increased aggression and confidence were apparent from his first moment on the court. He slammed in a pass from Melvin Levett after less than a minute on the court.
When he was removed at game's end, though, Huggins drew him aside for a lecture on substandard rebounding. Little finished with five. He blamed it on not moving quickly enough to the opposite side of the goal when shots were launched.
"Donald was our first guy off the bench because Donald deserved to be," Huggins said. "He played better in practice. He tries. He's coachable. He's learning how to play. He's going to get better and better because he wants to."
Fighting for a rebound with teammate Levett in the first half, UC point guard Michael Horton reinjured his left foot and wound up limping through much of his nine minutes of playing time.
Horton energized the Bearcats' offense with his passing, although he was credited with only two assists. He wanted to return in the second half, but couldn't run on his foot.
Really Poor Initially: Southwestern Louisiana is one reason Conference USA is ranked only eighth among conferences in the non-league Ratings Percentage Index (RPI). The Cajuns slapped a surprising loss on league member Southern Mississippi last weekend.
Unlike UC's No. 1 individual RPI ranking, the conference RPIs are meaningful at this time of year. That's because they reflect results in non-conference games, which are mostly completed by Jan. 1.
C-USA is behind the Big Ten, ACC, Big East, Pac-10, SEC, Missouri Valley and Big 12 in the ratings.
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