BY MIKE DeCOURCY
The Cincinati Enquirer
LAS VEGAS -- Shawn Marion said he was not going to take this personally. Good for him. So he and his teammates with the UNLV Rebels have another defeat this morning, but at least his feelings aren't hurt.
Cincinnati Bearcats forward Pete Mickeal wanted this one. He wanted to win, as always, but he wanted to show those college basketball fans willing to stay up after midnight EST that the best player to enter Division I from junior college this autumn did not necessarily matriculate at UNLV.
Mickeal extended his personal winning
streak to 81 games with UC's 86-73 victory over the Rebels at Thomas & Mack Arena, but he's obviously won many times before. This time, he got the best of Marion, who was proclaimed by recruiting analysts as the top junior college player even though Mickeal was the NJCAA player of the year and leader of two-time champion Indian Hills.
"He was going to play really hard today," said UC coach Bob Huggins, "because it was him against Shawn Marion. That was very much a personal challenge."
Huggins could trust Mickeal to take such an approach because he knew the challenge would be pursued within the context of what No. 4 UC (9-0) wanted to accomplish. Mickeal scored 23 points, but on 8-of-12 shooting, and his defense held Marion to 20 points on 7-of-15 from the field.
"No doubt about it, Shawn brought out the best in me," Mickeal said. "He's a great competitor and a good friend. He knew it wasn't going to be easy today. We talked about that on the phone today."
The funny thing was, Mickeal was not even UC's best player on this night. Center Kenyon Martin dominated the lane with 11 rebounds and six blocks -- he insists there were more -- and wrecked the UNLV zone from the middle with 11-of-12 shooting and 23 points.
Kenyon Martin shoots over three UNLV players.
| ZOOM |
"It was wide open," Martin said. "When I'm wide open, I feel like I should knock down the shot. The shot I missed, the guy hit my hand."
The Bearcats recovered from an eight-point first-half deficit to grab a 36-33 lead at the break and dominate the second half. They shot 73 percent in the final 20 minutes and committed only eight turnovers for the night.
UNLV played zone defense almost the entire evening, having obviously watched the Bearcats struggle against Minnesota a few days earlier.
"They were ready for us, ready for the zone," UNLV coach Bill Bayno said.
not nearly as ineffective against the Rebels zone as in operating its own man-to-man defense in the first several minutes. UNLV scored on nine of its first 12 trips, shooting 8-of-11 from the floor, and put up 20 points in the first eight minutes.
Bearcats senior guard Melvin Levett began this game in the same fashion as he played the entire way at Minnesota. He missed his first five shots, four from long range, and continued his dismal three-point shooting in road games.
The Rebels' offense was ignited by center Kaspars Kambala, a player UC recruited but didn't land, who worked inside for six of their first 10 points and finished with 18. Marion beat Mickeal for a baseline layup and then forward Kevin Simmons stuck two tough jumpers over Martin.
Martin battles for a rebound.
| ZOOM |
Down 20-12, the Bearcats turned to their 1-2-2 zone press to recover. Interesting that this would be the instrument with which they would gain the lead, as they only unveiled it Monday in their easy win against Nicholls State.
The element of the press that makes it most difficult for opponents is the positioning of Martin at the front, or sometimes 6-9 Jermaine Tate, which obscures the vision of the first ballhandler who attempts to advance the ball.
UC managed six stops in its first seven tries, which produced a 12-3 run that ended with Martin's foul-line jumper and put the Rebels behind, 24-23.
The Bearcats stayed with that scheme as the teams traded the lead through the next four minutes, and eventually it allowed them to move in front, 35-31, on point guard Michael Horton's steal and transition layup and Levett's first three-pointer. Horton was a key factor in UC's comeback, pushing the ball on the break and putting some extra bite in the press.
"I don't know if it's that he swings the ball quicker," Levett said, "but when he comes in the game, you've got that penetration."
UC looked to have an opportunity to make it a three-possession lead after forcing an apparent shot-clock violation with 13 seconds left. But official Tom Harrington ruled Bearcats sophomore Aaron McGhee had established possession when saving a ball that was going out of bounds, which would have meant a reset.
That led to a goaltending call against Martin that Huggins liked no more than the reset, and Huggins' persistent shouting as he left the floor earned him a technical foul from Harrington to start the second half. It was his first of the season.
Simmons made one of the free throws, but UC's zone defense forced a tough shot by Marion that was rebounded by Levett and turned into a Mickeal layup.
The technical paid for itself when Martin rejected an attempted hook by Marion, a play that could easily have again been called goaltending but was not. UC raced up for a short corner jumper by Mickeal and was off on an 8-2 surge that made it a 44-36 game.
The lead reached double-digits for the first time on consecutivespectacular plays by Levett. He first threw down a tip-slam he will include on his list of most sensational dunks -- "That and the one against Alcorn State last year" -- and then squeezed home a half-dunk off a lob pass from guard Steve Logan that was a little late arriving. Levett caught the ball after the peak of his jump, as he fell toward the floor.
UC's defense was nearly impenetrable in the first dozen minutes of second half.
The Bearcats got their lead up to 12, but a sudden series of stumbles attacking the top of the Rebels zone resulted in three successive turnovers.
UNLV got a layup from guard Mark Dickel, and guard Greedy Daniels drew an intentional foul from Martin that led to three points and a 58-52 deficit for the Rebels.
Levett answered with a baseline jumper to stretch the lead back to eight points, but when he left Daniels to double-team in the post, Daniels took an inside-out pass from Simmons and drilled a three to make it 60-55.
The press squeezed a 10-second violation against the Bearcats as the game neared the six-minute mark, and Simmons scored inside to cut the UC lead to three points.
Huggins switched the Bearcats back to a zone defense because of their struggle to keep the ball out of the post, and that shut down UNLV for the time necessary to get them back in control of the game.
The Rebels went empty through four trips, and the Bearcats ran off seven points that them back to an 11-point lead. with 3:15 to go. UNLV fell to 4-5 and has lost all its games against major-conference opponents.
"I told him after the game to keep working, and it'll come," Mickeal said of Marion. "He wants to win. He wants a winning streak like mine. People think all the individual stuff is important to him, but he wants to win."
24-11: The day the UC-UK rivalry stalled
Notebook: Mitchell's defense key
UC gears up for C-USA
All 1998 basketball stories
fg ft rb
min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp
Fletcher 19 0-1 0-0 0-1 0 4 0
Mickeal 36 8-12 7-10 3-6 1 3 23
Martin 36 11-12 1-2 4-11 1 3 23
Logan 17 2-6 0-0 0-0 4 1 4
Levett 34 7-19 3-4 2-7 4 1 19
Tate 21 2-2 0-0 1-4 0 3 4
Horton 19 3-5 4-7 0-0 5 2 10
Mitchell 9 0-2 0-0 0-1 2 0 0
Land 5 1-1 1-1 0-0 1 0 3
Mcghee 4 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
TOTALS 200 34-60 16-24 10-30 18 17 86
Percentages: FG-.567, FT-.667. 3-Point Goals:
2-14, .143 (Mickeal 0-2, Logan 0-1, Levett 2-10,
Mitchell 0-1). Team rebounds: 2. Blocked shots: 7
(Martin 6, Tate). Turnovers: 8 (Martin 2, Mickeal
2, Horton, Levett, Mitchell, Tate). Steals: 9
(Martin 4, Horton 3, Mitchell, Tate).
fg ft rb
min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp
Marion 34 7-15 4-5 4-8 0 2 20
Simmons 32 4-10 3-6 1-2 4 5 11
Kambala 30 6-9 6-9 4-8 1 4 18
Dickel 38 2-6 0-0 0-4 11 2 5
Keefe 28 3-9 0-0 1-2 2 1 8
Stewart 3 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0
Richardson 9 0-0 0-0 0-1 1 2 0
Daniels 17 2-4 2-2 1-1 0 2 8
Epps 9 1-2 1-1 0-1 0 3 3
TOTALS 200 25-55 16-23 11-27 19 21 73
Percentages: FG-.455, FT-.696. 3-Point Goals:
7-20, .350 (Marion 2-4, Simmons 0-3, Dickel 1-2,
Keefe 2-8, Daniels 2-3). Team rebounds: 2.
Blocked shots: 3 (Epps 3). Turnovers: 17 (Dickel
4, Marion 4, Stewart 3, Daniels 2, Kambala 2,
Keefe, Simmons). Steals: 7 (Daniels 4, Dickel,
Cincinnati 36 50 - 86
Unlv 33 40 - 73
Technical fouls: Cincinnati 1 (Bench). A:
15,424. Officials: Tom Harrington, Ron Zetcher,