Thursday, February 25, 1999

UC to fly the unfriendly skies




BY MIKE DeCOURCY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        There is no place like home for the Cincinnati Bearcats, but a lot of good that'll do them now. Every basketball game they play from now until the end of March, if they last that long, will be without benefit of the friendly rims and friendly fans at the Shoemaker Center.

UC at SOUTH FLORIDA
• When: 9:30 p.m. today
• Where: Sun Dome
• Records: Cincinnati 23-4, 10-4 C-USA; South Florida 13-11, 6-8.
• TV: ESPN
• Radio: WLW-AM (700)
BY THE NUMBERS
• 20: UC turnovers in Sunday's win over Louisville.
• 3: Turnovers in the final 14:37, after Michael Horton left for good.
• 16.8: Scoring average for USF freshman star B.B. Waldon.
• 29: Average free throws shot by last three teams to beat USF.
        In tonight's 9:30 game against South Florida (13-11, 6-8 Conference USA), No.9 UC (23-4, 10-4) is expecting to be assailed by fans at the Sun Dome in much the same manner as when the Bearcats visited UNC Charlotte last month and left with their first defeat.

        Either way, UC must shoot the basketball as proficiently on the road as at the Shoe in order to claim a fourth consecutive Conference USA title. Two wins, and it is theirs.

        “We practice so much here, shoot so much around here,” said freshman point guard Steve Logan. “We really know our rims. You have to stay focused on the road, and it'll seem like home.”

        The notion the Bearcats are not an adequate perimeter shooting team is more a matter of perception than statistics, although it also has been a matter of where games were played.

        For games played in Conference USA, UC ranks third in three-point percentage at .347. Its .343 mark for all games exceeds the .323 for Miami (Fla.), Kentucky's .306 and UCLA's .321.

        However, the picture of what to expect from UC's perimeter shooting this weekend at South Florida and Memphis — and next week in the Conference USA tournament at Birmingham — is not promising.

        In 14 games at home, the Bearcats made 101 of 267 three-point attempts, a .378 percentage. In 13 games elsewhere, UC is 39-of-150, a .260 percentage.

        Shooting guard Melvin Levett, UC's leading three-point shooter with 62, has made only 18 away from the Shoe and is shooting .257, compared to .427 at home.

        The Bearcats are not only less accurate on the road, they are less eager. Their tendency to play cautiously in road games might have contributed to the inability to hold late leads at DePaul, Marquette and Saint Louis.

        “It depends on situations,” coach Bob Huggins said. “At Louisville, we only shot three threes, and that's because we didn't want them to run out and get easy baskets. I think it's a product of the style of the game rather than home and road.”

        Huggins admits the tight defensive styles used by the opponents for UC's three-game losing streak dictated that the Bearcats needed to make more outside shots, but he believes that was undermined by poor passing. He thought the play during the losing streak was a function of several players' relative inexperience in Division I.

        “It's late in the year, but every now and then in pressure situations, you tend to revert back to other things, sometimes to bad habits,” Huggins said. “You've got a whole bunch of guys that are used to being receivers, and not passers.”

        UC has had nine games in which it attempted more than five three-pointers and hit greater than 38 percent. Six of those games were at home, and seven featured multiple three-pointers by Levett.

        The other factor that seemed to connect the best UC shooting nights, though, were extended appearances by Logan and Alvin Mitchell. To get the best shooting, Huggins had to play his best shooters.

        They averaged a combined 36 minutes in those nine games, and shot a combined 41-of-84.

        During the losing streak, Logan and Mitchell averaged a combined 29 minutes per game and collectively shot 2-of-11 from the field.

        For the USF game, Huggins has yet to commit to starting Logan at the point over senior Michael Horton, who committed 11 turnovers in his last 37 minutes.

        “It could be a factor, not being as loose as at home,” Logan said. “The shots don't fall, and you get down. The road is a great challenge for us right now.”



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