Sunday, January 10, 1999


Crazy finish keeps Bearcats undefeated

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Aaron McGhee tangles with USM's Carlos Booker.
(AP photo)

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        HATTIESBURG, Miss. — Mel Levett couldn't explain what happened, Arthur Stapleton simply didn't know what was going on, Bob Huggins didn't see much of what transpired and the game officials never figured out the problem with the horn at Reed Green Coliseum.

        What was reasonably clear from this mess is the Cincinnati Bearcats did not play much like the nation's No.3 college basketball team, and they were not treated like it in their biennial, Conference USA-imposed trip to Southern Mississippi.

        UC left town immediately after the game Saturday with a 54-52 victory, but only a foggy notion of how it happened. The Bearcats (15-0, 4-0) let a 15-point first-half lead melt away and even trailed Southern Miss (10-6, 2-2) by a point with 2:54 left.

        After a free throw by center Kenyon Martin tied it and forward Pete Mickeal gave UC the lead for good with two free throws at the 1:51 mark, it got kind of weird:

Alvin Mitchell and Kenyon Martin double-team Arthur Stapleton.
(AP photo)

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        • UC fouled Southern Miss star Neil Reed, but he missed the second of his free throws and an opportunity to tie. The Bearcats then ran an isolation play on the left side of the lane for Mickeal, who was swallowed by the USM defense and squeezed up a shot but drew no foul call.

        • After UC was awarded the ball on an iffy out-of-bounds call against Reed, the same play was run for Mickeal and he was awarded a foul despite less contact occurring.

        • Mickeal's one free throw gave UC a two-point lead with 44 seconds left. The Bearcats forced Eagles guard Earl Flowers to miss a shot in the lane, then began a fastbreak that looked like a game-clincher.

        • Levett, though, missed a one-handed dunk.

        “I don't miss dunks,” Levett said. Mickeal insisted Levett was clearly undercut. Levett had no other explanation. “Whether the guy ran up under me ... I know that my momentum took me forward, and I landed flat on my back.”

Pete Mickeal tries to keep up with Mel Cauthen.
(AP photo)

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        The rebound soared toward midcourt with about four seconds left, giving USM a chance for a game-winning three-pointer. But Stapleton, a senior guard, had no idea what the situation was as he dribbled to the right wing. When Reed called for the ball in the opposite corner — he led USM with 19 points, but shot 7-of-19 — Stapleton realized the Eagles were behind.

        “It was so loud in there,” Stapleton said. “Then I realized, "Oh, I had to do something.'”

        Stapelton was permitted by UC guard Michael Horton to shoot a relatively unchallenged three-pointer, and the clock hit 0:00 as the ball flew, but the shot went long. No horn, though. USM's Vandarel Jones rebounded and tried a follow, which Martin blocked.

        There's no telling if it would have counted, but the same thing happened at the end of the first half, and Ryan Fletcher was called for a foul that provided a point to USM. It could have been decisive.

        Huggins was not displeased with Levett's decision to try the dunk, although he was looking at the opposite end of the floor checking to make sure UC had some defenders in place. “He should score,” Huggins said. “We're up two there, and that puts us up four. He's got to score that.”

Michael Horton drives.
(AP photo)

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        The Stapleton miss rescued UC from a disappointing road defeat and extended the second-best start in school history another game.

        UC was saved, as well, by 29 bench points, including a career-high 15 by forward Aaron McGhee and 10 from guard Alvin Mitchell.

        Mitchell energized the Bearcats offense with two three-pointers, a feed to McGhee for a jump-hook and a sizzling assist to McGhee on the break for an easy dunk. UC ran off 18 points to USM's five to build an 11-point lead. During one 10-possession stretch, McGhee and Mitchell scored 12 of their team's 14 points.

        Huggins was sufficiently convinced by the Mitchell-McGhee show to break his habit of starting the same lineup in both halves, setting aside Horton and forward Ryan Fletcher.

        That did not prevent USM from controlling the second half, though. The Golden Eagles weren't able to creep closer than seven until 5:38 remained, when Reed scored a baseline layup to make it 48-43.

        The Eagles surged from that point as Martin could not find his offensive game and UC suddenly lethargic. Levett got lost on defense and allowed a Reed three. Mitchell left Mickeal alone to bring the ball upcourt and Flowers stole the ball for a layup and two-point deficit.

        When Martin was called for an illegal screen trying to clear Mitchell's path to the midcourt line, USM cut it to a point on a free throw by Booker. Another steal by Flowers, this time directly from Mitchell, led to Reed's layup and the first Golden Eagles lead, 51-50, since the 13:03 mark of the first half.

        “We missed a lot of shots, granted, but it shouldn't come down to the end of the game,” Levett said. “We have a tendency to let our guard down.”

        As he spoke in the hallway, USM guard Mel Cauthen walked past toward the exit. “Sorry about undercutting you,” Cauthen said.

        At least somebody knew what went on.

Notebook: Starters have a very bad day
Head says no; heart says 29-0 Paul Daugherty column

All 1998-99 basketball stories

                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Fletcher         9   0-1   2-2   2-3  0  2    2
Mickeal         34   5-6   3-4   2-4  0  2   13
Martin          36   1-2   1-2   1-7  4  3    3
Horton          13   1-4   0-0   1-3  2  3    2
Levett          32  2-10   0-0   0-1  0  1    5
Myrick           7   0-0   0-0   0-1  1  0    0
Tate             7   0-2   0-0   0-1  0  0    0
Mitchell        30   4-7   0-0   0-2  2  0   10
Logan            4   2-3   0-0   0-0  0  0    4
Land             2   0-1   0-0   1-1  0  0    0
Mcghee          26  7-14   1-2   4-7  1  2   15
TOTALS         200 22-50  7-10 11-30 10 13   54

Percentages: FG-.440, FT-.700. 3-Point Goals:
3-5, .600 (Levett 1-3, Mitchell 2-2). Team
rebounds: 6. Blocked shots: 2 (Martin 2).
Turnovers: 15 (Martin 4, Levett 3, Mcghee 2,
Mickeal 2, Fletcher, Horton, Mitchell, Tate).
Steals: 6 (Mitchell 3, Levett, Mcghee, Myrick).

                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Jones           32   3-3   1-1   3-5  1  1    7
Reed            36  7-19   2-3   0-1  1  1   19
Booker          29   1-4   1-2   1-4  2  2    3
Winn            23   1-3   3-4   2-5  1  1    5
Flowers         24   3-7   0-0   0-1  2  3    6
Stapleton       21   1-5   0-0   1-2  1  2    3
Cauthen         16   1-3   2-2   0-1  1  0    4
Thompson        19   2-7   1-2   4-5  1  1    5
TOTALS         200 19-51 10-14 11-24 10 11   52

Percentages: FG-.373, FT-.714. 3-Point Goals:
4-13, .308 (Reed 3-9, Stapleton 1-4). Team
rebounds: 1. Blocked shots: 5 (Booker 4,
Cauthen). Turnovers: 10 (Reed 3, Stapleton 3,
Flowers 2, Cauthen). Steals: 7 (Flowers 4, Reed,
Stapleton, Winn).
Cincinnati         33   21  -   54
So Mississippi     19   33  -   52
Technical fouls: None.  A: 6,123. Officials:
David Bair, Ron Zetcher, Gene Menees.

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