Saturday, March 06, 1999

UC NOTEBOOK


Lutz's key decision easy as 2-3

BY MIKE DeCOURCY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — UNC Charlotte coach Bobby Lutz made a gutty call to set his 49ers in a 2-3 zone as UC lined up for a game-winning shot with 22 seconds left and the 49ers up a point in their Conference USA semifinal Friday at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center.

        Many coaches would not be willing to play a passive defense when protecting such a narrow lead, but Lutz trusted the numbers.

        “We keep stats on the bench, and they had scored 68 percent against our man, one basket against our zone the second half,” Lutz said. “That made it a fairly easy decision. They really never solved it.”

That old gang
        With Friday's retirement by Charlie Spoonhour from Saint Louis and the firing of Mike Deane at Marquette — despite a 100-55 record that averages out to 20-11 in his five years — Conference USA is down to just three of the coaches who began with the league just four years ago.

        Fortunately for UC fans, Bob Huggins is one of them.

        The others are Denny Crum at Louisville and Perry Clark at Tulane, who appears to be on steady ground despite a recent decline in the Green Wave. Crum insisted he will continue to coach the Cardinals despite an ESPN report by analyst Dick Vitale that said Crum would retire and be replaced by Miami's Leonard Hamilton.

Long road
        UNC Charlotte will try to accomplish something that's only been done twice in college basketball: winning four games in four days to claim a conference tournament championship.

        Because of the league's two-division setup, which commits first-round tournament byes to the first two finishers in each division, UNCC was seeded No. 5 despite having the third-best league record. That meant it had to go through four rounds, as Marquette did in 1996-97 in C-USA and Auburn did in 1985.

        This is the 49ers' third consecutive appearance in the C-USA title game. They are the only league member to reach the title game three times. “We'd like to win one,” Lutz said.

Whistling Dixie
        UNCC became the first team to claim a season series from the Bearcats since Memphis won two of three against them in 1994-95.

        The 49ers felt this win was important because the victim was UC, and also because they remained bothered by claims official Tom O'Neill's inadvertent whistle tainted the first 49ers win.

        “It's a good feeling to know that, no matter what anybody says, we beat Cincinnati,” said forward Galen Young. “Hopefully, we'll get some respect now.”

Numerology
        • UC's .356 shooting was not a season low (.339 vs. Dayton) but its total of 16 field goals was.

        • Bearcats point guard Steve Logan was 1-of-10 from three-point range in the tournament. As a team, UC was 2-of-25.


       



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