BY MIKE DeCOURCY
The Cincinnati Enquirer
It once seemed having three able point guards would be a luxury for the Cincinnati Bearcats. It has turned out to be a necessity.
No. 6 UC (4-0) got back one of its three playmakers this week when senior Michael Horton returned to work after missing three games with a foot injury. But Thursday the Bearcats lost another, when junior Alvin Mitchell went down with an ankle injury that may keep him out of Saturday's home opener against Oakland (2-4) at the Shoemaker Center.
Coach Bob Huggins said he hasn't thought about how to rotate Horton, Mitchell and freshman Steve Logan because, "I haven't had to."
Trainer Jayd Grossman said he considers it doubtful Mitchell will play against Oakland, although it is hard to tell how his ankle will respond.
Mitchell was hurt early in Thursday's practice when he went up for a layup and came down on the foot of teammate Donald Little. He left the gym on crutches.
"We've got to get better," Huggins said, "and it's hard to get better when guys aren't playing. We need all the practice we can get."
Horton is practicing with no apparent effects from the
foot injury that kept him from making the Alaska trip. Although it was feared he developed a stress fracture, Horton has gone through four days this week at relatively full-speed.
He played in the opener against Rhode Island and lasted 16 minutes, passing for two assists and scoring five points, but aggravated the injury. The three games and practice time he missed left him behind in the fight for playing time at the point. His week in practice has not been entirely smooth, although the soreness has been mostly eliminated by wearing two ankle braces and a wrap.
"He throws the ball away too much," Huggins said. "He's got good floor vision, knows where the ball is supposed to go, but he's got to do a better job of delivering it without throwing it away." UC went to Alaska wondering how its point guard situation would develop with Horton not along for the trip.
In three games, Mitchell and Logan averaged 14.6 points, 5.0 assists and 2.3 turnovers, shooting 17-of-37 (.459) from the field. A team that a year ago averaged 15.8 turnovers is down to just under a dozen per game.
Which is not to say all the point guard concerns have been addressed. Without Horton, UC allowed Duke's William Avery to light up the Alaska night with 30 points and 5-of-11 three-point shooting. Opposing point guards have made 10-of-26 (38.5 percent) from three-point range.
Horton's defensive skills most likely could solve this, although UC would sacrifice the shot-making ability both Logan and Mitchell bring to the offense.
"I thought maybe if I was there, I could have helped defensively, put a lot of pressure on Avery," Horton said. "My goal would have been to try to shut him down."
There seems to be no urgency to locating a starting quarterback for the Bearcats. It is uncommon for a team to run the position by committee, but also uncommon for a team
to have three players it trusts at the point.
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