Sunday, January 31, 1999

UC 76, ALABAMA-BIRMINGHAM 60


Sluggish Bearcats notch 20th victory

BY TOM GROESCHEN
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[martin]
Kenyon Martin blocks a dunk attempt by Antonio Jackson.
(AP photo)

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        It was just 21/2 minutes into the game, and Bob Huggins had seen enough.

        The University of Cincinnati coach had watched his team fall behind 5-1 to underdog Alabama-Birmingham, and proceeded to angrily call a 20-sec ond timeout.

        “Are we gonna play, or what?” Huggins yelled at his players, his voice loud enough to reach most of the sellout crowd of 13,176 at the Shoemaker Center on Saturday afternoon.

        The expected letdown from Thursday night's victory over crosstown rival Xavier stretched well past tipoff Saturday. UC, having spent itself vs. XU, admittedly had little fuel in its tank.

        “We were kind of dead,” said UC center Kenyon Martin. “No one else was doing it, so I felt it was my time.”

[mickeal]
Pete Mickeal and Eric Holmes chase a loose ball.
(Jeff Swinger photo)

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        Martin (14 points, 15 rebounds, five assists, four blocks) helped lift the No. 5 Bearcats to a methodical 73-60 victory, but not before Huggins had called two 20-second timeouts before the first TV commercial break.

        UC fell behind 11-3 and 13-5 before inevitably taking control of the outmatched Blazers, whose hopes for an upset were dashed largely by the slashing drives of forward Pete Mickeal (18 points) and Martin's fearsome inside presence.

        “I told Ken and Pete they were going to have to carry us,” Huggins said. “It's just hard to get that emotion back.”

        UC (20-1, 7-1 Conference USA) firmly re-established itself as big dog on the league block.

        UAB (15-7, 6-3) leads the National Division of the 12-team league, while UC commands the American Division.

[horton]
Michael Horton leaps over Damon Cobb while applying a full-court press with Melvin Levett.
(Jeff Swinger photo)

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        Guard Melvin Levett and forward Ryan Fletcher each scored 12 points as UC's balance buried the Blazers. UAB had only one man in double figures, forward Fred Williams with a career-high 26 points — twice his average.

        While TV viewers might have thought Huggins would come out spewing venom afterward, that was not the case. He cut his team some slack, given that tipoff was just 37 hours after the XU game ended.

        “We play XU, then we have to get right up and go to class Friday,” Huggins said. “Then they're in here three hours (for practice), then we meet with them Friday night and again this morning. Having half a day to prepare is difficult.”

        UAB, having been off for five days, was ready. The Blazers opened in a 2-3 zone defense and dared UC to shoot over it. The Bearcats fared poorly from three-point range (3-for-15), but Martin, Mickeal and Fletcher proved too big and athletic for the smaller Blazers.

[myrick]
Shawn Myrick and LeAndrew bass reach for a loose ball.
(Jeff Swinger photo)

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        UAB did knife inside too often for lay-ins and short jumpers, and outrebounded UC 43-41. Those kind of things bother the defensive-minded Huggins, but he was pleased that UC regrouped when behind early.

        By halftime, the Bearcats had a 32-27 lead. They stretched it to 17 points (64-47) as UAB never really threatened in the second half.

        Huggins was most pleased that UC limited UAB to 33 percent shooting from the field.

        “We didn't shoot well, but Cincinnati had something to do with that,” UAB coach Murry Bartow said. “Obviously, the better team won.”

        In the second half, UC continually pounded the ball inside, handled the ball well, and showed good patience offensively. Point guard Michael Horton orchestrated things with eight assists and just one turnover.

        The Bearcats committed only 11 turnovers. But they caused only 13 turnovers, about five below their average. “A lot of us were not ready,” Levett said. “We came out sluggish. But in the second half, our big guys came through.”

        Martin, Fletcher and Mickeal combined for 25 of UC's 41 second-half points. The crowd-pleaser was a huge dunk by Martin, off a missed three-pointer by Levett. As the ball bounced high off the rim, Martin went airborne and, in one motion, slammed the ball home with his right hand.

        The next biggest crowd noise came late in the game, when the scoreboard flashed that Xavier had lost to Dayton. By then, the crowd was simply savoring a day that saw UC notch its eighth straight 20-win season.

        “We weren't near as good as we have been,” Huggins said. “We were just kind of a half-step behind, but maybe that's understandable. We're happy to win, and now we'll take a day off and come back Monday.”

        UC next plays host to Tulane in a Conference USA game Wednesday (8:05 p.m.).

UC NOTEBOOK
UC looks for more from Martin Tim Sullivan column
All 1998-99 basketball stories


UAB (60)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Williams        35 11-21   3-3  4-12  1  4   26
Jackson         21  4-10   0-0   4-5  0  1    8
Brown           37   2-6   4-4   4-7  2  3    8
Holmes          29  1-11   0-0   0-1  1  3    3
Cobb            30   0-6   1-2   0-3  1  5    1
Mitchell        18   2-7   0-0   1-5  0  2    4
Bass            18   2-4   1-2   1-1  1  0    6
Ransom           7   1-3   2-2   1-5  0  1    4
Ward             5   0-1   0-2   0-0  0  0    0
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 23-69 11-15 15-39  6 19   60
_______________________________________________


Percentages: FG-.333, FT-.733. 3-Point Goals:
3-15, .200 (Williams 1-4, Brown 0-1, Holmes 1-4,
Cobb 0-4, Mitchell 0-1, Bass 1-1). Team rebounds:
4. Blocked shots: 2 (Brown, Jackson). Turnovers:
13 (Williams 6, Bass 3, Cobb 2, Holmes,
Mitchell). Steals: 4 (Cobb 2, Holmes 2).


CINCINNATI (73)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Tate            15   0-1   0-0   0-1  0  2    0
Mickeal         40  8-11   2-5   0-8  1  3   18
Martin          35  6-14   2-3  5-15  5  2   14
Horton          21   2-3   1-2   1-1  8  1    5
Levett          21   4-9   3-4   0-2  1  2   12
Fletcher        20  6-10   0-0   3-6  2  1   12
Myrick           8   1-2   0-0   1-2  0  0    2
Logan           15   2-7   2-2   0-1  0  0    7
Mitchell        16   1-6   0-0   0-4  2  2    3
Mcghee           6   0-0   0-0   1-1  0  1    0
Land             3   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 30-63 10-16 11-41 19 14   73
_______________________________________________


Percentages: FG-.476, FT-.625. 3-Point Goals:
3-16, .188 (Mickeal 0-1, Levett 1-5, Logan 1-5,
Mitchell 1-5). Team rebounds: None. Blocked
shots: 7 (Martin 4, Mickeal, Tate, Land).
Turnovers: 11 (Levett 2, Martin 2, Mickeal 2,
Mitchell 2, Fletcher, Horton, Logan). Steals: 6
(Fletcher, Levett, Logan, Martin, Mitchell,
Myrick).
__________________________________
UAB                27   33  -   60
Cincinnati         32   41  -   73
__________________________________
Technical fouls: None.  A: 13,176. Officials: Bob
Garibaldi, Paul Kaster, Terry Moore.


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