Monday, February 15, 1999

SAINT LOUIS 69, UC 57


Bad point play, Martin's fouls killing Bearcats

BY MIKE DeCOURCY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[glum bench]
Aaron McGhee, Steve Logan and Alvin Mitchell watch the final moments of their third straight loss.
(AP photo)

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        ST. LOUIS — It started the same, with the Cincinnati Bearcats using the lineup that plunged them into a two-game losing streak. It ended the same, with the fans of the opposing team surging to the center of the court for the sort of celebration that is becoming cliche.

        No.5 UC is single-handedly rescuing its struggling Conference USA partners. After Sunday's 69-57 victory over the Bearcats (21-4, 8-4), Saint Louis wonders if it can reach the NIT, where it might join Marquette, which beat UC four days earlier, and possibly DePaul, which started the Bearcats' plunge with an overtime win and suddenly is an NCAA Tournament contender.

        With 15 seconds left and UC hopelessly behind, SLU forward Virgel Cobbin turned to fellow senior Ryan Luechtefeld and said, “We've got this one. Why are we 13-12?”

        There are plenty of reasons why they're now 14-12, 8-5 in Conference USA, among them:

[levett]
Melvin Levett upends Saint Louis' Troy Richardson.
(AP photo)

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        • A technical foul against UC coach Bob Huggins with 6:56 to play. He jumped in the air to protest the lack of an over-the-back call against SLU's Matt Baniak, an alleged oversight that closely followed a circumstance in which UC's Melvin Levett was held back by two Billkens from completing a steal. When Huggins landed, official David Libbey slammed him with a T. Saint Louis outscored UC by a 24-9 margin from that point.

        • A 40-17 difference in points that resulted from hustle (follows, fast breaks and points off turnovers) that favored SLU.

        • UC's 19 turnovers, seven of which were committed by point guard Michael Horton.

        How the Bearcats feel about their situation, they're not saying. Each player asked to discuss the loss refused.

        “Ask coach all the questions,” said forward Pete Mickeal, who scored six points and attempted just five shots. “We ain't answering no more questions.”

[huggins]
Bob Huggins.
(AP photo)

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        There were certainly issues for Huggins to address, such as why he sent out the same lineup as he did in the two prior losses. With Horton at point guard and Jermaine Tate at power forward, the Bearcats are 3-3.

        In each of the past three games, they trailed after the first five minutes. UC did not get its first lead Sunday until 9:57 remained in the first half.

        “We were going to come out and do some half-court traps,” Huggins said. “Jermaine wasn't the problem. That's the best Jermaine's played in three weeks.”

        Tate had seven points and four rebounds, but Horton produced no field goals and committed a season-high seven turnovers in his 28 minutes — his most since losing the ball eight times in last year's NCAA Tournament loss to West Virginia.

[huggins]
Jermaine Tate
(AP photo)

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        UC had a six-point lead when Horton re-entered the game with just under 12 minutes left, and he threw away the ball three times before being yanked, part of a stretch in which the Bearcats committed five turnovers in eight possessions.

        No matter how routinely Horton blundered, Huggins kept sending him back because of freshman Steve Logan's technical errors and passivity running the offense. Logan angered his coach by catching an inbounds pass along the baseline against the press, getting himself trapped and by stranding forward Pete Mickeal at the point of attack.

        “I'm going to put a guy out there who's going to stand over there and not come get the ball?” Huggins asked. “Not on your life. If you're going to stand and watch, you might as well sit and watch. I love Pete to death, but I don't want him to run our offense.”

        A sturdy, serviceable defender when he was a starter at power forward, junior Ryan Fletcher was beaten twice in succession by Baniak in the game's critical stretch, first for a dunk that gave SLU the lead for good at 52-50 with 4:52 left and then an 8-foot jumper directly over Fletcher's head.

        The Bearcats spent their possessions in that period on a high-low play that led to a turnover for the third time in the game and a too-quick jumper by Fletcher.

        “It's not that we don't have guys open. We don't pass the basketball,” Huggins said. “We throw those passes like a guy trying to skip a rock across the water.”

        UC missed center Kenyon Martin in that stretch, as it has throughout the losing streak. He picked up his fourth foul with 6:21 left while chasing an offensive rebound and did not return until just inside the 3-minute mark. He's averaged 22 minutes a game in the three losses.

        “It's hard with Kenyon sitting there,” Huggins said. “We've got to do something to keep him in the game, but I don't want him to stop playing hard.”

        Martin had all nine of his points in the first half, as UC built a lead that grew as large as seven points. When Levett hit consecutive three-pointers at the start of the second half — he was UC's only double-figure scorer with 19 — the lead grew to 38-30.

        In much the same manner as the Marquette game, UC was not able to push its lead into double digits. The Bearcats shot .479 from the field but were held to 60 or fewer points for the third straight game.

        “Maybe they'll take a good, hard look at themselves,” Huggins said. “We've blamed everybody in the world but ourselves.”

UC NOTEBOOK


CINCINNATI (57)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Tate            22   3-4   1-2   2-4  1  3    7
Mickeal         34   3-5   0-0   1-4  1  2    6
Martin          25   4-6   1-2   1-4  0  4    9
Horton          28   0-1   1-2   1-2  8  4    1
Levett          34  8-17   0-0   1-2  1  5   19
Myrick           6   0-1   0-0   0-2  1  2    0
Mitchell         6   1-1   0-0   0-1  0  0    3
Logan           12   1-4   0-0   0-0  2  1    2
Fletcher        22   2-6   0-0   1-4  0  1    4
Mcghee          11   1-3   4-4   2-3  2  1    6
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 23-48  7-10  9-26 16 23   57
_______________________________________________


Percentages: FG-.479, FT-.700. 3-Point Goals:
4-13, .308 (Levett 3-10, Mitchell 1-1, Logan 0-1,
Mcghee 0-1). Team rebounds: 6. Blocked shots: 2
(Tate, Mickeal). Turnovers: 19 (Horton 7,
Fletcher 4, Levett 2, Myrick 2, Logan, Martin,
Mcghee, Mickeal). Steals: 5 (Fletcher, Horton,
Levett, Mcghee, Myrick).


ST LOUIS (69)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Cobbin          35  5-10   8-8   0-2  2  2   20
Luechtefeld     38   6-9   3-4   1-5  1  2   18
Baniak          24   3-4   2-2   2-4  2  1    8
Love            20   1-4   0-0   0-0  1  1    3
Fergerson       31   3-8   3-4   1-3  5  1   10
Robertson       16   0-1   4-4   0-3  1  3    4
Walker          16   0-4   2-2   0-0  3  0    2
Simmons          3   0-1   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Heinrich         6   1-1   0-2   0-0  0  0    2
Tatum           11   1-6   0-3   1-2  0  2    2
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 20-48 22-29  5-19 15 12   69
_______________________________________________


Percentages: FG-.417, FT-.759. 3-Point Goals:
7-18, .389 (Cobbin 2-5, Luechtefeld 3-3, Love
1-3, Fergerson 1-4, Walker 0-1, Simmons 0-1,
Tatum 0-1). Team rebounds: 8. Blocked shots:
None. Turnovers: 12 (Walker 4, Cobbin 2,
Fergerson 2, Heinrich, Love, Tatum). Steals: 6
(Cobbin 3, Walker 2, Robertson).
__________________________________
Cincinnati         30   27  -   57
St Louis           27   42  -   69
__________________________________
Technical fouls: Cincinnati 2 (Levett, Bench). 
A: 15,829. Officials: Don Rutledge, Ted Hillary,
Libbey.

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