Friday, December 17, 1999

Bearcats oblivious to Shootout hype


The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ST. LOUIS — As they prepared for their Conference USA game at Saint Louis, the UC Bearcats managed not to be distracted as by talk in their city about the Skyline Chili Crosstown Shootout.

        Forward Pete Mickeal said fans and reporters hadn't bothered the team much about the Xavier game — although it surely helped that classes were not in session.

        “I haven't even been asked for tickets,” Mickeal said. “That'll probably come tomorrow.”

        It helped that UC lost to Saint Louis in its most recent trip to the Kiel Center.

        “Kenyon (Martin), Pete and those guys kind of let the word out,” coach Bob Huggins said. “We had to come here and play.”

Dental work
        It was only last month that Martin had the braces removed from his now-straight, now-gleaming teeth.

        Saint Louis center Chris Heinrich put a dent in that smile, though, with an inadvertent elbow at the seven-minute mark of the second half that sent Martin to the floor for a moment and chipped one of his bottom teeth.

        Martin plans to see a dentist today.

        “I just got my braces off, so it kind of hurt my pride,” Martin said. “I paid a couple grand for these, so I can't let that slide.”

Tech talk
        With UC leading 13-11 at the 13:36 mark, Huggins drew what had to rank as one of the softest technicals of his career.

        Angry that officials had not called a foul when Martin attempted to drive the baseline and had his shot rejected by Matt Baniak, Huggins shouted to Scott Thornley at midcourt: “He pushed him out of bounds. Call the game.”

        That was enough for Thornley.

        It turned out not to hurt the Bearcats much, because they forced a missed shot by Heinrich on the possession that followed Justin Love's two free throws.

Love tap
        Mickeal was justifiably proud of his defensive effort against Saint Louis guard Justin Love, who entered the game leading Conference USA in scoring at 20 points per game.

        Love, who was 2-of-13 from the field in SLU's only other loss by more than a basket (to Louisiana Tech), shot 3-of-10 and scored nine against Mickeal.

        “Basically, he just faded away,” Mickeal said. “Most of it was on him. He just stopped being aggressive.”

Bonner day
        Before the game, Saint Louis retired the jersey of former Billikens star Anthony Bonner, the school's all-time leading scorer (1,972 points) and rebounder (1,424). He played with the Billikens from 1986-90. Bonner led SLU to the NIT final four in 1989 and 1990 and played several seasons in the NBA.

        UC and SLU were not members of the same conference during Bonner's career, but faced each other twice and split those two games. SLU was in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference along with Xavier when Bonner was a Billiken.

Numbers game
        UC won its sixth consecutive conference opener, with the average margin being 13.7 points. The last time UC lost its first league game was in 1993-94, a 67-65 decision to UAB at the Shoemaker Center.

        • This was UC's 50th victory in five seasons of C-USA play. The next-closest teams in total wins are Memphis and UNC Charlotte, with 39 each.

        • This is the third time a Huggins team has reached the 8-0 mark. Last year the Bearcats started 15-0, and in 1995-96 they were 12-0. The 1992 Final Four team opened 7-0.

        • UC is 5-2 vs. SLU at the Kiel Center, making the Bearcats the most successful visiting team in this building.

        • Saint Louis guard Marque Perry entered on a 16-of-27 shooting streak as a starter, but was 1-of-3 against the Bearcats. Forward Matt Baniak had made all but two of his past 10 shots, but went 1-of-5.


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