Sunday, February 28, 1999

UC 89, MEMPHIS 64


Bearcats roll into tournament

BY MIKE DeCOURCY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[martin]
Kenyon Martin, left, and Jermaine Tate smother Memphis' Omar Sneed.
(AP photo)

| ZOOM |
        MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Cincinnati Bearcats are once again the team to beat in Conference USA, instead of a team you can beat.

        UC completed its recovery from a three-game losing streak with an 89-64 thrashing of Memphis that gave coach Bob Huggins his sixth regular-season league title at UC. The Bearcats now will travel to Birmingham, Ala., for a quarterfinal game against either Memphis or South Florida on Thursday in the Conference USA tournament.

        They've won six of their past seven league tournaments and are the No. 1 seed for this year's championship.

        “I think we're better,” Huggins said. “We're playing with so much more enthusiasm, more emotion.”

[tate]
Tate battles Marcus Moody for a rebound.
(AP photo)

| ZOOM |
        The Bearcats dropped from No.3 in the AP rankings to No. 9 with losses at DePaul, Marquette and Saint Louis. They've won four in a row since, turning up their defense and holding the opposition in those games to an average of 211/2 first-half points.

        “We're not to the point we were at the beginning of the season. Right now, we're trying to get back to that,” said senior guard Melvin Levett. “By the NCAA Tournament, we should be back where we need to be.”

        UC actually clinched the C-USA championship at halftime, with Louisville's loss to Southern Mississippi. But the players didn't find out until forward Pete Mickeal broke the news during a timeout with 3:22 left. He noticed the final score from Southern Miss flashed on one of the scoreboards at The Pyramid.

        “He's in the huddle saying, "It's ours,' ” Huggins said. “We are playing with a lot of emotion right now. They want the conference championship. They want rings.”

        UC finished at 25-4 overall and 12-4 in the C-USA.

        With a 22-point lead at the break and the Cardinals in the clubhouse with an 11-5 league record, the Bearcats were pretty much assured they would leave this game as no less than co-champions. But they wanted to keep this title to themselves, and to show they could play as well with a huge lead as they did in building it.

        “We wanted to keep going at them,” Levett said. “They got some things going in the second half, but we were able to still score.”

        Memphis (13-14, 6-10) attempted to rally behind star guard Jimmie “Snap” Hunter, who did not start because he was late to a team meeting and did not start scoring until he was freed from Mickeal's company. Hunter scored all 23 of his points in the second half, but the Bearcats continued pushing the ball to their front line and dominating the boards.

        All five UC starters scored in double figures for the first time this season, led by Mickeal's 22 and 14 each from Levett and point guard Steve Lo gan. Center Keyon Martin and power forward Jermaine Tate each had 11, and Ryan Fletcher scored 10 off the bench and grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds.

        Although Memphis coach Tic Price abhors using zone defense, he found the thought of the Bearcats cutting up his suspect man-to-man less appealing. The Tigers set themselves in a 2-3 zone after UC won the opening tip, but eventually the Bearcats found the cracks in the zone.

        They got the ball to Martin in the center of the lane for two shots and then to Tate along the baseline to draw a trap and set up a feed to a cutting Martin for a short jumper. Martin was 4-of-4 from the field at that point and UC led, 18-13.

        When Logan hit a three-pointer to make it an eight-point game, though, Price showed the first sign of lost confidence in his gameplan by switching to man defense. Lev ett slashed through the Tigers for a tough, hanging jumper, and then forward Jermaine Tate made the decisive play of the half, stealing the ball above the top of the key and driving for an unchallenged dunk at the 5:04 mark that made it 25-17.

        Price's lost confidence turned into a loss of self-control as the Bearcats rapidly pulled away. With UC already surfing through a 16-4 run, Horton drove down the right side on a fastbreak and was fouled as he shot by Tigers guard Keiron Shine. Price heaved a water bottle into the Memphis bench, and official Sam Croft smacked him with a technical foul.

        “We got manhandled,” Price said. “Some calls were made, and we lost our poise. We couldn't get back into the game psychologically after that.”

        The Bearcats grabbed nine of the last 10 rebounds and wound up with a 41-19 halftime lead, making Memphis the second consecutive UC opponent to score fewer than 20 in the first 20 minutes.

        Against Mickeal for most of the evening, Hunter could not so much as make a move. He scored two points in the game's first 27 minutes, but took advantage of a defensive switch to stick a three-pointer on Michael Horton and began a show that was astonishing only to those who've not seen him do it before.

        With Mickeal taking a break, Hunter burned Levett for a couple threes. In a period that lasted 7:15, Hunter scored 18 points and outdid the entire UC lineup, which scored 17.

Notebook: Mickeal's defense is 'snap'


CINCINNATI (89)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Tate            30   4-8   3-6   2-6  1  3   11
Mickeal         39  8-12   6-7   2-4  4  3   22
Martin          23   5-6   1-2   2-6  0  4   11
Levett          30  5-11   2-2   1-3  1  2   14
Logan           33   3-7   6-8   1-3  1  2   14
Myrick          10   2-3   0-0   3-3  1  2    4
Horton           7   0-0   1-2   0-0  2  1    1
Fletcher        25  2-10   6-6  6-16  0  2   10
Land             2   1-1   0-0   0-1  0  1    2
Meacham          1   0-1   0-0   0-1  1  0    0
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 30-59 25-33 17-43 11 20   89
_______________________________________________


Percentages: FG-.508, FT-.758. 3-Point Goals:
4-11, .364 (Mickeal 0-1, Levett 2-3, Logan 2-5,
Myrick 0-1, Fletcher 0-1). Team rebounds: 6.
Blocked shots: 2 (Tate, Mickeal). Turnovers: 18
(Fletcher 4, Levett 4, Mickeal 4, Logan 2,
Martin, Meacham, Tate). Steals: 4 (Mickeal 2,
Fletcher, Tate).


MEMPHIS (64)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Sneed           29  4-12   4-4   0-1  1  1   12
Jones           14   1-2   0-0   0-0  0  4    2
Ousley          15   0-5   0-0   2-3  0  3    0
Shine           32   2-4   6-7   0-1  3  0   11
Moody           30   2-9   2-2   0-3  0  2    6
Daniels          7   0-0   0-0   0-0  1  1    0
Hunter          26  9-17   1-3   2-4  2  2   23
London          15   0-2   4-6   1-2  0  2    4
Chatman         10   0-1   0-0   0-0  0  2    0
Mulvagh          1   0-1   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Harris           5   1-4   0-0   2-2  0  2    2
Weaver           1   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Wise            15   2-2   0-1   2-5  0  4    4
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 21-59 17-23  9-21  7 23   64
_______________________________________________


Percentages: FG-.356, FT-.739. 3-Point Goals:
5-18, .278 (Sneed 0-2, Shine 1-2, Moody 0-2,
Hunter 4-10, Chatman 0-1, Mulvagh 0-1). Team
rebounds: 1. Blocked shots: 3 (Ousley 2, Hunter).
Turnovers: 12 (Ousley 2, Shine 2, Sneed 2,
Harris, Hunter, Jones, London, Moody, Mulvagh).
Steals: 8 (Hunter 2, Shine 2, Jones, Moody,
Ousley, Sneed).
__________________________________
Cincinnati         41   48  -   89
Memphis            19   45  -   64
__________________________________
Technical fouls: Cincinnati 1 (Martin).  Memphis
2 (, Jones).  A: 17,493. Officials: Ed Hightower,
Tom Harrington, Sam Croft.


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