Saturday, March 06, 1999

UNC CHARLOTTE 55, UC 52


Bearcats miss 16 of 17 threes

BY MIKE DeCOURCY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[young]
Charlotte's Galen Young hits the go-ahead basket with 27 seconds left. UC couldn't answer.
(AP photo)

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        BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The shot at victory came from Melvin Levett's right hand, a hand that delivered on many previous nights, but under the roof of the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center Friday had launched eight errant three-point shots. The ninth looked much the same.

        Sort of. This one, with five seconds left and the Cincinnati Bearcats down by one, fell short. “Most of my shots were hard, the whole night,” Levett said. But a miss is a miss is a loss. UC was dropped 55-52 by UNC Charlotte in the semifinals of the Conference USA tournament.

        The No.7-ranked Bearcats (26-5) will not win their seventh league tournament title under coach Bob Huggins. Their faint hope of a No.1 NCAA Tournament seed is extinguished, and they've been wait-listed for a No.2.

        “It was a great look. I got open, took a dribble — maybe I should have taken another so I at least got it on the rim,” said Levett, who led UC with 12 points. “I wasn't hesitant at all. At some point in time, it was going to fall.”

[tate]
Jermaine Tate and Aaron McGhee walk off while Charlotte cheerleaders celebrate .
(AP photo)

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        UNCC (21-10) reclaimed the lead with 26.5 seconds left on a driving 10-footer by all-conference forward Galen Young, which he launched over a leaping Kenyon Martin and lifted so high its only avenue to the goal was to bank off the glass.

        “He's a shot-blocking machine,” Young said. “It was kind of like a playground shot. It wasn't anything drawn up. It was just determination. ”

        UC had 22 seconds left out of a timeout and a play called on which one of its two big men, Jermaine Tate or Martin, was to set a ball screen for point guard Steve Logan that would lead to either an open shot for Logan, a pick-and-roll or a slip pass to Levett or forward Pete Mickeal on the wing.

        The sight of a 2-3 zone paralyzed the Bearcats, even though the play was designed to work regardless of the defense. The screen never arrived.

        They wasted most of the available time and Logan ultimately delivered the ball to Levett in the corner. After he missed, they were slow to purposefully foul Young, who rebounded. After he made two shots, they had less than two seconds to try for a tie and could not complete an inbounds pass.

        “We sort of panicked,” coach Bob Huggins said. “They do a great job of trying to confuse you as to what they're in, but it's not anything we didn't know was coming.”

[levett]
Melvin Levett finds his path blocked by Kelvin Price.
(AP photo)

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        UC rallied from 10 points down in the second half to take a lead with 2:47 left on a free throw by Levett. That was the first of two attempts he received for being fouled by Young while attempting a shot, but he missed the second. UC had made 19 of its first 20 before that one fell off the rim. The final four were misses, each one an opportunity to extend the one-point lead.

        The Bearcats held UNCC without a field goal between Marlon Thomas' follow basket at the 8:11 mark until Young's drive. It could have been that way much of the night, with the way they held down the 49ers' primary threats. Against Mickeal, Young was 3-of-12 for 10 points. Shooting guard Jobey Thomas was 1-of-4 for two points. Point guard Diego Guevara made 2-of-6 from three-point range and scored nine.

        UC did not account, however, for such lesser players as forward Tremaine Gardiner, reserve point guard Kedric Smith and Marlon Thomas, who shot a combined 9-of-13 and scored 23 points — nearly half the UNCC total.

        They got all but two of those points in the first half, and UC trailed by seven, 33-26. The Bearcats were behind at the half in four of their past six games against UNCC. This was their largest halftime deficit of the season.

[martin]
Kenyon Martin fights Tremaine Gardner for a rebound.
(AP photo)

| ZOOM |
        Gardiner's baskets were particularly damaging. His first eight points came in the first eight minutes, when UC was dominating the baseline on offense and shutting down the remainder of the 49ers.

        “I gave him too much room,” Martin said. “I knew he could make shots, but I didn't think he could make them if I had my hand up.”

        The Bearcats were down a point with a minute left in the first half, but gave up three-pointers by Guevara and Smith before the buzzer. Huggins thought that lapse convinced his players to compete, although it helped provide UNCC's margin of victory.

        Logan darted from a short slump to give UC a chance, hitting two short jumpers and his first three-pointer in three games to cut a 36-26 lead to five points before the 15-minute mark. Martin later scored eight consecutive Bearcats points, tying the game with two free throws at the 5:27 mark, and keeping them even with a daz zling follow-slam off a miss by Logan.

        When Martin snatched a rebound off a rushed Jobey Thomas shot inside the final three minutes, UC had a chance for its first lead since it was 11-10, which Levett provided with his free throw. UC did not score again, despite four possessions and free throw attempts by Mickeal and Tate.

        “My teammates kept telling me they need me,” Levett said, “and to keep shooting the ball, just stay with it. I think I'm right for listening. It's unexplainable, nights like this.”

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NC CHARLOTTE (55)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Young           38  3-12   4-4  3-10  1  4   10
Price           38  5-12   1-5   0-2  1  4   11
Guevara         28   2-8   3-4   1-4  2  2    9
J Thomas        28   1-4   0-0   2-6  0  1    2
Gardiner        36   4-7   0-0   2-5  1  2   10
Smith           12   2-3   0-0   0-1  1  2    6
M Thomas        15   3-3   0-0   2-2  2  2    7
Whitehead Jr.    5   0-2   0-0   1-1  0  0    0
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 20-51  8-13 11-31  8 17   55
_______________________________________________


Percentages: FG-.392, FT-.615. 3-Point Goals:
7-15, .467 (Guevara 2-6, J Thomas 0-1, Gardiner
2-4, Smith 2-3, M Thomas 1-1). Team rebounds: 2.
Blocked shots: None. Turnovers: 11 (Young 4,
Gardiner 2, J Thomas 2, Price 2, Guevara).
Steals: 7 (Gardiner 2, Price 2, Guevara, Smith,
Young).


CINCINNATI (52)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Mickeal         40   5-9   1-2   1-6  0  2   11
Tate            34   1-1   4-6  6-11  2  2    6
Martin          23   3-7   4-4   3-9  0  3   10
Levett          39  3-13   6-7   0-3  2  3   12
Logan           35  4-10   2-3   0-1  3  1   11
Myrick           1   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Horton           3   0-1   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Mitchell         2   0-0   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Fletcher        14   0-3   0-0   0-2  0  1    0
Mcghee           9   0-1   2-2   1-1  0  0    2
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 16-45 19-24 11-33  7 12   52
_______________________________________________


Percentages: FG-.356, FT-.792. 3-Point Goals:
1-17, .059 (Mickeal 0-2, Levett 0-9, Logan 1-6).
Team rebounds: 1. Blocked shots: 4 (Martin 2,
Mickeal, Tate). Turnovers: 12 (Levett 4, Fletcher
2, Mickeal 2, Tate 2, Martin, Mitchell). Steals:
4 (Mickeal 2, Levett, Mitchell).
__________________________________
Nc Charlotte       33   22  -   55
Cincinnati         26   26  -   52
__________________________________
Technical fouls: None. Officials: Tom Harrington,
Larry Ware, Mike Thibodeaux.

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