Thursday, February 11, 1999

MARQUETTE 62, UC 58


Bearcats look like hay seeds in second straight loss

BY MIKE DeCOURCY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

nnamaka
Marquette freshman Oluoma Nnamaka, shooting over Pete Mickeal and Michael Horton, made big plays down the stretch.
(AP photos)
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        MILWAUKEE — The No. 1 ranking debate ended a few days back, a few miles down the road. The No.1 seed debate ended here Wednesday night. The debate about why all of this transpired may have only begun.

        “We're going down,” said Cincinnati Bearcats junior forward Ryan Fletcher. “We've almost ruined our season.”

        His sentiment will no doubt be shared by those UC fans who could stand to watch the whole of their team's 62-58 loss to Marquette at the Bradley Center, which put the Bearcats on a two-game losing streak for the first time since 1994-95.

        No.4 UC (21-3, 8-3) still has not swept an opponent in Conference USA this season and has blown a two-game lead in the league as easily as it surrendered a seven-point lead that stood with 11:35 to go against Marquette and an 11-point lead with 5:59 left in Saturday's loss at DePaul.

foul
Mickeal fouls Cordell Henry during the last desperate moments.
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        The Bearcats find themselves tied with Alabama-Birmingham for the overall league lead, and will be in second place if the Blazers take care of Memphis tonight on ESPN. This circumstance led the team to stage a short meeting after the coaching staff left the locker room to discuss its recent problems.

        “To me, it was amazing when everybody kept saying they were as good as the Final Four team,” coach Bob Huggins said. “I'd tell those guys, and they'd say, "Yeah, yeah.' We're just not playing.”

        Marquette (12-12, 4-8) got the win with three huge plays by freshman forward Oluoma Nnamaka, who scored 10 points and was one of four Golden Eagles to reach double figures, led by guard Brian Wardle with 19.

        Nnamaka drove on UC's Jermaine Tate with 39 seconds left and drew a foul on Tate and a goaltend against Kenyon Martin. His three-point play made it a 57-54 lead for Marquette.

deane
Marquette coach Mike Deane (center) leads the celebration of Nnamaka's three-point play.
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        UC set up a play to give freshman Steve Logan a three-point shot, but Nnamaka closed quickly and he threw his shot high, and the ball bounced off the rim and over the backboard for a turnover.

        As the Bearcats tried to foul intentionally to get back in the game, Nnamaka also made one free throw with nine seconds left for a four-point margin that left UC with no chance for victory.

        “This is a win that all Marquette fans, the players, the staff and university can be proud of,” coach Mike Deane said. “Nnamaka, after having a disappointing first half, had a tremendous second half, and that's the mark of a maturing and developing player.”

        Marquette is the only team that has beaten UC each of the past five seasons. It didn't figure to happen this time, not with UC coming off a loss to DePaul, a situation in which it had punished the next opponent by an average of 27.4 points during the past three years.

mitchell
Alvin Mitchell steals from Mike Bargen in the first half.
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        Instead of issuing a stirring response to the disappointment of the DePaul defeat, the Bearcats looked like a team with shaken confidence.

        They crumbled down the stretch. Their offense in the second half consisted of five Fletcher jumpers — he led UC with 15 points — three baskets by forward Pete Mickeal and a whole lot of emptiness. Their offense throughout the game was crippled by an inexplicable rush to launch jumpshots before any semblance of offense had been transacted.

        “We're not playing hard, regardless of whether it's Marquette or Duke,” Fletcher said. “We didn't defend. We didn't rebound. We're not doing the little things that got us here.”

        With 7:25 left, the Bearcats lost guard Melvin Levett for the game with a sprained ankle as he tried to defend a Wardle drive and his left leg bucked as he planted. He will be evaluated today, along with freshman forward Eugene Land, who sprained his knee in the first half and did not return.

mickeal
Mickeal dunks.
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        UC had spent its entire lead by the 6:18 mark, when Marquette forward Michael Bargen scored inside to tie it at 49. That score held until Fletcher made one free throw at the 4-minute mark to put UC up, 50-49.

        Bargen could have put given his team the lead if he'd nailed an open three-pointer, but he left it short, and the Bearcats got another free throw from Horton with 2:58 left to make it a two-point game.

        UC had a chance to double its lead after John Cliff missed a three for Marquette, but Logan rushed into a shot that was easily blocked by Wardle. Huggins said the call was for a play to pass inside to Mickeal.

        “There's a lot of things I'd like to take credit for,” Huggins said, “but it was a total team effort.”

        The basket that produced the first tie followed a missed defensive rebound by the Bearcats, and so did the Wardle three-pointer that landed with 1:33 left and put UC down for the first time, 54-53.

        “Guys were standing around, waiting for someone else to pick it up and throw it to them,” Huggins said. “That's what its been for the last 31/2 weeks. They just outhustled us.”

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CINCINNATI (58)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Tate            22   1-4   0-2   1-2  1  3    2
Mickeal         39   6-8   2-2   2-6  1  4   14
Martin          23  3-10   2-2   3-7  0  5    8
Horton          26   2-4   3-6   0-2  5  1    7
Levett          27   3-9   0-0   1-5  0  2    7
Mitchell         9   0-2   0-0   0-3  0  1    0
Logan           18   1-7   1-2   0-0  1  0    3
Fletcher        18  6-12   3-5   1-4  1  2   15
Land             3   0-1   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Mcghee          15   1-4   0-0   2-2  0  0    2
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 23-61 11-19 10-31  9 18   58
_______________________________________________


Percentages: FG-.377, FT-.579. 3-Point Goals:
1-8, .125 (Martin 0-1, Levett 1-3, Mitchell 0-2,
Logan 0-2). Team rebounds: 3. Blocked shots: 3
(Martin 2, Tate). Turnovers: 11 (Tate 3, Mickeal
2, Fletcher, Horton, Logan, Martin, Mcghee,
Mitchell). Steals: 9 (Horton 3, Levett 3,
Fletcher, Mickeal, Mitchell).


MARQUETTE (62)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Bargen          35  5-11   2-2   2-9  2  3   12
Nnamaka         26   4-7   2-4   2-4  1  3   10
Mueller         25   3-4   4-5   0-4  0  3   10
Henry           36   2-5   3-4   1-2  2  1    9
Wardle          37  7-15   2-2   0-4  4  3   19
Cliff           27   1-9   0-0   1-5  2  1    2
Miller           4   0-1   0-0   0-0  1  1    0
Harris           2   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Polonowski       2   0-1   0-0   1-1  0  0    0
Clausen          6   0-0   0-0   1-1  0  0    0
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 22-53 13-17  8-30 12 15   62
_______________________________________________


Percentages: FG-.415, FT-.765. 3-Point Goals:
5-18, .278 (Bargen 0-3, Nnamaka 0-2, Henry 2-2,
Wardle 3-5, Cliff 0-6). Team rebounds: 5. Blocked
shots: 6 (Bargen 6). Turnovers: 15 (Cliff 4,
Henry 3, Wardle 3, Bargen 2, Nnamaka 2, Clausen).
Steals: 4 (Bargen 3, Henry).
__________________________________
Cincinnati         33   25  -   58
Marquette          28   34  -   62
__________________________________
Technical fouls: None.  A: 12,717. Officials: Jim
Burr, Larry Lembo, Kerry Sitton.

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