Saturday, March 13, 1999

UC 72, GEORGE MASON 48


Bearcats back to bully of block

BY MIKE DeCOURCY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[levett]
Melvin Levett punches the air after a three-pointer.
(Michael Snyder photo)

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        BOSTON — These were the Bearcats of November. Remember them? Deep bench. Dunked a lot. Defended the entire court. Owned each gym they entered. Beat Duke.

        It has been a while, perhaps, since you got a good look at Alvin Mitchell, Eugene Land and Aaron McGhee. It has been almost as long since the Cincinnati Bearcats played the brand of basketball that came to define the program coach Bob Huggins built earlier this decade.

        There were no great aesthetics to their 72-48 first-round NCAA Tournament victory over George Mason (19-11) Friday afternoon at the Fleet Center. But neither were last-second heroics necessary to advance the Bearcats (27-5) to a second-round matchup with Temple.

        Their victory was the most one-sided tournament game for UC since a 92-55 destruction of New Mexico State in 1993's second round. They had not held an opponent under 50 points in an NCAA game since blasting Oregon State 80-46 in the 1963 Final Four.

        “I was hyped up,” said shooting guard Melvin Levett, who scored 11 points and made his first three-point attempt to break that 0-for-9 karma that followed him from the Conference USA tournament. “I wanted to come out and get rid of these guys.”

[mickeal]
Pete Mickeal.
(Michael Snyder photo)

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        “It's just about coming out ready to play,” said Bearcats forward Pete Mickeal, who led UC with 18 points. “We're going to keep playing. If we lose one, it's going to be because we got beat.”

        It also was about the nature of the game the Bearcats played.

        Weary of allowing inferior teams to drag them into sluggish, halfcourt fistfights, the Bearcats extended their defense to cover the entire court. Huggins all but abandoned the press in the last month of the season, as UC's players declined to use the aggression necessary to make it work.

        The intermittent use of pressure did not lead to a flood of George Mason turnovers — only 13 for the game — but helped UC to an 11-0 edge in fastbreak points and ensured the game would be played at a pace that favored UC.

        “I thought it worked well at times,” Huggins said. “I just didn't want to get into a halfcourt deal with them. I thought they would try to play uptempo, but I wanted to make sure they did.”

[logan]
Steve Logan.
(Michael Snyder photo)

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        There was a certain amount of tension at the start of the game, perhaps a slight hangover from last year's three-point first-round win against Northern Arizona. The Bearcats came up empty in six of their first seven trips and only had 13 points by the 12-minute mark.

        Huggins removed starter Steve Logan and sent in Michael Horton to run the point and push the offense, and the Bearcats surged from a 9-6 lead to a 27-11 margin in the next 10 minutes.

        The press was an effective change. The Patriots scored only 11 points in the first 15 minutes, missed 22 of their first 25 shots and three times went three minutes between field goals. They finished with a .273 percentage that was a season-low for UC opponents.

        Huggins used 10 players for at least 13 minutes, and no starter was forced to go longer than Mickeal's 28.

        UC got six points and four rebounds from Land, whose last meaningful statistical contribution was a 10-point, six-rebound outing against Marquette Jan. 4.

        UC's offense was still somewhat sloppy. The Bearcats did not finish plays with nearly the efficiency that will be necessary to compete with Temple in the second round.

        The pleasant difference about the Bearcats in this game is that after they put the Patriots significantly to the rear, they did not call off the attack.

        Their 41-17 halftime lead grew to 65-35 with 7:38 left on a three-point play by forward Jermaine Tate. It was UC's first 30-point lead since its win over UNC-Wilmington Dec. 30.

        “We're very, very capable of being the best team in the country,” Levett said. “When everybody's doing what they're supposed to do — rebounding, defending — we can play with anyone in the country.”

        George Mason turned out to be just that. Anyone.

        The Bearcats will play someone soon enough.

MARCH MADNESS PAGE


GEORGE MASON (48)
                      fg    ft    rb
               min   m-a   m-a   o-t  a pf   tp
Holdan          34  5-10   1-2   4-7  0  4   12
Evans           25   0-6   0-2   1-5  3  2    0
Mirich          13   1-3   0-0   3-4  0  2    2
Miskiri         37  5-16   3-6   1-4  3  3   13
Dorsett         20   1-5   0-0   0-1  1  2    3
Price           24   4-7   1-2   0-2  0  0   10
Carey           13   1-8   2-6   1-2  0  2    4
Anderson         7   0-1   0-0   0-0  0  0    0
Randall          9   0-3   1-2   1-1  0  1    1
Nixon            8   1-5   0-0   1-2  0  1    2
Abraham         10   0-2   1-2   1-2  0  4    1
_______________________________________________
TOTALS         200 18-66  9-22 13-30  7 21   48
_______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.273, FT-.409. 3-Point Goals: 3-18, .167 (Holdan 1-2, Miskiri 0-7, Dorsett 1-4, Price 1-3, Carey 0-2). Team rebounds: 12. Blocked shots: 4 (Evans 2, Anderson, Nixon). Turnovers: 13 (Holdan 3, Evans 2, Miskiri 2, Price 2, Carey, Dorsett, Mirich, Randall). Steals: 7 (Carey 3, Holdan 3, Mirich).

CINCINNATI (72) fg ft rb min m-a m-a o-t a pf tp Tate 20 3-4 1-1 3-8 1 3 7 Mickeal 28 6-13 6-7 2-6 1 2 18 Martin 17 3-5 4-4 4-6 0 2 10 Levett 26 5-12 0-0 2-5 2 0 11 Logan 21 1-5 0-0 1-4 1 0 2 Myrick 13 1-2 0-1 1-3 0 3 3 Horton 15 0-2 2-4 0-3 3 3 2 Mitchell 13 1-4 0-0 1-6 3 1 2 Fletcher 19 3-5 0-0 0-4 1 2 7 Land 18 2-7 2-3 1-4 0 1 6 Meacham 4 0-2 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 Mcghee 6 0-1 4-4 0-1 0 1 4 _______________________________________________ TOTALS 200 25-62 19-24 15-50 12 18 72 _______________________________________________

Percentages: FG-.403, FT-.792. 3-Point Goals: 3-10, .300 (Levett 1-2, Myrick 1-2, Mitchell 0-2, Fletcher 1-2, Meacham 0-1, Mcghee 0-1). Team rebounds: 7. Blocked shots: 3 (Tate, Levett, Fletcher). Turnovers: 17 (Horton 3, Levett 3, Land 2, Mitchell 2, Tate 2, Fletcher, Logan, Martin, Mickeal, Myrick). Steals: 9 (Fletcher 2, Levett 2, Martin 2, Land, Mitchell, Myrick). __________________________________ George Mason 17 31 - 48 Cincinnati 41 31 - 72 __________________________________ Technical fouls: None. A: 18,884. Officials: Dick Cartmell, Bobby Hunt, Jamie Jones.



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