Monday, February 22, 1999

UC 91, LOUISVILLE 78


Bearcats regain command in C-USA

BY MIKE DeCOURCY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Conference USA race will not come down to Louisville vs. Cincinnati. That issue has been decided, decisively. What is left of the race will be determined by what the Bearcats choose to do with what is left of their season.

        Sunday's supposed C-USA showdown at the Shoemaker Center with Louisville, which entered No. 1 in the league and No. 20 in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) standings, was best summed up by Cardinals coach Denny Crum: “Maybe we'll get another chance.”

        Their 91-78 victory over Louisville (16-8, 10-4) gave the No. 9-ranked Bearcats (23-4, 10-4) identical league records but UC the advantage of a season sweep. With victories in their final two C-USA games, at South Florida and Memphis, the Bearcats will claim the league's regular-season title for the fourth year in a row.

        “They know that already,” said UC coach Bob Huggins. “They know where we are and where they are.”

        This was the Bearcats' fifth consecutive win over Louisville, whom they've outscored 374-301 in those games. The Cardinals became the eight team in the past 10 games to shoot under .400 (.360) against UC. Four of their starters reached double figures, led by point guard Cameron Murray's 17, but those players hit 19-of-55 from the field.

        Despite their 20 turn overs, the Bearcats enjoyed the Cardinals' decision to employ fullcourt pressure defense for most of the game. Forward Pete Mickeal sliced through the defense for a career-high 28 points and the entire squad maintained the same attacking approach used to break a three-game losing streak Wednesday night against UNC Charlotte.

        “They open the floor a little more,” Huggins said of Louisville. “They're not one of those teams that'll try to shorten the game and play in the 50s.

        “Plus, we're playing for something. Going down there, they were ahead in the league standings. Coming here, they were ahead in the league standings. And they've got Louisville on their chests. That means something.”

        It seems to mean less each time the Cardinals encounter UC. Crum thought they played better this time than in an 81-55 loss at Freedom Hall, but it was mostly in refusing to quit despite an 18-point deficit that stood with 5:54 left.

        With a 17-4 run, Louisville pulled to a five-point deficit with 42 seconds left. But UC hit 9-of-12 from the free throw line in the final 1:21 to keep the lead. Otherwise, Louisville could not score inside, could not hit the open shots that developed, could not keep the Bearcats off the glass.

        “They put a lot of pressure on you, and they don't give you a lot, but when they give you an open one, you've got to make it,” Crum said. “They dominated us on the inside.”

        Huggins started point guard Michael Horton on account of Senior Day, just four days after Horton sat the entire Charlotte game. With Horton in charge, the Bearcats were precisely the team they'd been before, turning over the ball on five of their first seven possessions.

        That led to an odd circumstance, in which the Bearcats built an 8-5 lead despite managing only four shots from the floor in the first eight minutes. They held Louisville to 2-of-15 shooting during that time.

        The only consistent source of offense in the halfcourt was junior forward Ryan Fletcher, who hit two three-pointers and went to the line for six attempts that gave him 12 first-half points. He ended with 17, tying his career high.

        UC had a 40-22 lead with 2:18 left in the half, but allowed the Cardinals to score the final 10 points of the half and close the halftime margin to eight.

        Martin scored four points early in the second half but picked up his third foul on a block call at the 18:01 mark, and Huggins was cautious the rest of the way, using Fletcher and Tate inside. Crum had no such luxury.

        With only Woodward High product Dion Edward and senior Alex Sanders to use in the post, he had each one stuck with four fouls by the 16:13 mark of the second half. Crum left Edward in and kept Sanders to the side, and Edward fouled out just two minutes later as Mickeal drove the lane.

        The Bearcats had no fear thereafter, cutting up the Cardinals defense for 24 points in an eight-minute stretch — six by Mickeal on fastbreak layups — and building their lead to 76-58 with 6:32 left.

        “That's what I really expected to see from myself from Day One,” said Mickeal, whose last two games generated 51 points, 24 rebounds and 18-of-27 shooting from the field. “I think I was trying to find my role with the team. I've got to steal the ball, attack the galss. Coach plays me these many minutes. I've got to do something out there.”

For a day, UC was big, bad and back Paul Daugherty column
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LOUISVILLE (78)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Williams        33   4-9   1-1   4-6  2  3    9
N Johnson       38  5-12   4-8   3-8  2  5   14
Sanders         28  5-19   2-2   5-6  1  4   13
Maybin          34  4-12   4-9   2-3  1  4   13
Murray          33  5-12   5-5   2-4  3  3   17
Bailey           4   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  1    0
Edward          14   2-5   4-4   1-2  0  5    8
E Johnson       15   2-6   0-0   2-3  0  3    4
Smiley           1   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  1    0
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 27-75 20-29 19-32  9 29   78
_______________________________________________


Percentages: FG-.360, FT-.690. 3-Point Goals:
4-23, .174 (Williams 0-5, N Johnson 0-2, Sanders
1-5, Maybin 1-2, Murray 2-7, E Johnson 0-2). Team
rebounds: 4. Blocked shots: None. Turnovers: 11
(N Johnson 3, Edward 2, Murray 2, E Johnson,
Maybin, Sanders, Williams). Steals: 4 (Edward 2,
Maybin, Williams).


CINCINNATI (91)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Tate            31   4-6   6-9  6-11  1  2   14
Mickeal         38 10-15   7-9   3-9  1  2   28
Martin          16   3-3   0-1   2-5  0  5    6
Horton          10   1-1   0-2   0-0  1  3    2
Levett          34   1-5   5-5   1-5  2  3    7
Logan           23   5-9   0-2   0-3  3  3   11
Fletcher        30   3-9  9-10   1-5  3  3   17
Myrick           8   1-2   1-2   1-1  0  2    3
Mitchell         7   1-1   0-0   0-1  0  2    3
Mcghee           2   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Meacham          1   0-1   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 29-52 28-40 14-40 11 25   91
_______________________________________________


Percentages: FG-.558, FT-.700. 3-Point Goals:
5-15, .333 (Mickeal 1-2, Levett 0-3, Logan 1-3,
Fletcher 2-5, Mitchell 1-1, Meacham 0-1). Team
rebounds: 2. Blocked shots: 4 (Fletcher 2, Tate,
Mickeal). Turnovers: 20 (Fletcher 4, Horton 4,
Levett 4, Logan 2, Martin 2, Tate 2, Mickeal,
Mitchell). Steals: 5 (Fletcher, Horton, Logan,
Martin, Tate).
__________________________________
Louisville         32   46  -   78
Cincinnati         40   51  -   91
__________________________________
Technical fouls: Cincinnati 1 (Mickeal).  A:
13,176. Officials: Don Rutledge, Curtis Shaw,
David Bair.


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